Modern Griots Reviews: Jaded the Musical

Hillary Hawkins as Jade Source: Jaded the Musical

Black women’s mental and physical health are often not at the forefront of news and studies, especially with the continuation of the myth of the strong black woman or medical professionals and the public who make light of our conditions.

A few days ago, I attended Jaded the Musical at The Secret Theatre in Queens, New York. Written and directed by and starring Hillary Hawkins, who also starred in Futurology, Jaded is about a troubled young girl, named Jade, who is keeping a dark secret from her family while also having to take care of a physically sick and depressed mother, Contessa, played by Nicole Renee.

The musical begins with a kind of levity to it, especially in the first few songs, but what stands out is the relationship between the mother and daughter and how each others’ pain is affecting one another. Contessa, who suffers from fibromyalgia, arthritis and a number of other physical ailments, self-medicates not only with a variety of drugs, but also alcohol, and her pain causes her to forgo showing affection for her daughter, Jade. Jade, on the other hand, has a strong attachment to her mother, as in the song she sings to her mother, “I’m Your Legs,” but a less attachment to the outside world. She is technically an adult, but acts like a child afraid of the world out there and as the musical goes, we find out just how much she is in despair, despite not having the same physical ailments as her mother.

Her mother does not readily understand what is wrong with Jade because her pain is not visible, a common perception of mental health issues. The poignant parts of the show was the two songs, “The Rap” and “Keep Getting Up” that show the tug and pull between Contessa and Jade’s ailments and a crumbling of the mask Jade holds up before finding out the sexual trauma that Jade was keeping a secret. We find out in the musical that Jade has PTSD, which was significant because how many time is that diagnosis mentioned with rape survivors or black women. Although the musical needed some smoother transitions to a few of the songs,  a little more training for Hawkin’s dramatic singing voice, and to be a little less obvious in certain places in the script, what was at the heart of it was that it showed black women and their vulnerability, that we, too, are human.

The last showing at The Secret Theatre is tomorrow at 8pm.


Modern Griots Reviews: “Finding the Funk…

Source: VH1

…and getting the respect!”

Author, music historian and filmmaker, Nelson George, said at a rough cut screening of his latest film, Finding the Funk, that funk music was a music for outsiders. Reaching its peak in the 70s and early 80s, the short time between the eras of soul and post-bop/funky jazz and the rise of hip-hop, funk and its pioneers have left a prominent impression on current music, but do not receive as much historical analysis as other genres of popular music. While other genres, like blues, jazz, soul and even our most current hip-hop, have tons of books and documentaries about them, George himself said he could only find one definitive book about the history of funk, Rickey Vincent’s Funk: The Music, The People, and The Rhythm of The One. Basically in popular culture, funk almost still remains an enigma or a shadow of the future, despite having the likes of James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament Funkadelic, Zapp, Cameo, Slave, Mtume, Prince, LaBelle and plenty more in that legacy.

In comes, George, with his documentary to give a chance for audiences now to get to know better the history and faces of funk, if they have not already. Although this was a rough cut — the final version will premiere on VH1 in November with more performance footage and songs — George’s film had a lot of potential mainly because of the interviews with many of those involved in funk, most prominently George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and the elusive, and kind of spaced-out interview-wise, Sly Stone. Opening with a joke from one of funk’s founding father’s, James Brown, about a guy who doesn’t know the directions in Harlem, but yet knows he’s not lost, the film balances the heavy baselines of funk with lighthearted laughter in the interviews.

Continue reading Modern Griots Reviews: “Finding the Funk…

Otherworldly Videos: Noise Gate + Spoek Mathambo + Fhloston Paradigm

Here is Donovan Vim Crony’s sci-fi short Noise Gate! The film is about a “dimension-traveling scientist who is in search of the ultimate reality. His only passage into that realm is something called the NOISE GATE.” It reminds me a little bit of Afrikan Boy and DJ Shadow’s ending for the video for “I’m Excited.” I also thought it was interesting that there were Japanese subtitles in the film, in a sense reversing the foreign film concept. Take a look at the Behind the Scenes.

Continue reading Otherworldly Videos: Noise Gate + Spoek Mathambo + Fhloston Paradigm

Moving on the Wires: Nominations + Roxe15 + iAfrofuturism + The Future Weird: Black Atlantis + The Fourth Way + Hepicat Clothing Line + Rachel Stewart Jewlery

*If you enjoy my blog posts, why not consider donating to keep it running! Any donation is appreciated! Just click the yellow paypal button on the left.

*Check out my other pages: Youtube, Soundcloud, Pinterest, Facebook

*The Black Weblog Awards opened their nominations. Anyone want to nominated my blog for an award? Maybe Best Writing in a Blog? Or Best Entertainment Blog? Nominations close September 6, 2013.

*The Kickstarter fundraiser for the upcoming short film Roxe15 is ending in less than a week. Written and directed by Celia C. Peters, the story is about “an edgy virtual reality programmer discovers a brutal virus invading her prized software. And then the virus comes after her.”

Continue reading Moving on the Wires: Nominations + Roxe15 + iAfrofuturism + The Future Weird: Black Atlantis + The Fourth Way + Hepicat Clothing Line + Rachel Stewart Jewlery

The My-Stery: Honoring Black Women’s Voices, Bodies and Supernaturalness

Robert Pruitt - "Dreaming Celestial" (Reminded me of Harriet Tubman)
Robert Pruitt – “Dreaming Celestial” (Reminded me of Harriet Tubman)

“The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling.” – Audre Lorde

Quite a number of people within the past couple of weeks have basically told black women (and other women of color in general) that our voices, our bodies and any power we have –present, past or future — is not to be respected or honored. On several fronts we are attacked, from our erasure from mainstream feminism (#solidarityisforwhitewomen) to our erasure from racial discourse (#blackpowerisforblackmen). Even women who expect to be revered are treated trivially. Last week, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons released a Harriet Tubman “sex tape” that he thought was suppose to be funny. Afrofuturists know Tubman as an icon in our spaces, just look at Chronicles of Harriet, Sanford Biggers, , and Cauleen Smith. Yes, he took the video down, after he was quickly called out on it, and his apology was basically all bull, implying that we were too sensitive, and not the critique of the racially misogynist (or misogynoir) aspects of the video. For example, having Tubman seduce a white master matches the jezebel stereotype and reinforces notions of black women’s incapability of being raped. Additionally, it was the inaccuracy of the video to Tubman’s story and the reduction of a woman to degrading, pornographic sex. Now he wants to do a movie about Tubman. C’mon, please! Rather than waiting for that half-assed sorry that will be that film, below are some works that show greater respect for us. For the past few weeks, I have read and viewed works that spoke to me as a Black woman about us reclaiming our power in different situations.

The three works — two from Caribbean writers, Nalo Hopinkson’s Midnight Robber and Marie-Elena John’s Unburnable, and the other, a Cameroonian film, Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s Les Saignantes (The Bloodettes) — all explore stories of women who fight to overcome sexual oppression, sometimes even at the hands of other women, through a re-imagining of themselves and a reclaiming of feminine ancestral wisdom and bodies. One of the most striking parts that is similar in all three is the reliance of ancestral feminine wisdom and ritual, and ancestral women by the main characters, much like what we should do with Harriet Tubman. (*warning: spoilers coming*)

Continue reading The My-Stery: Honoring Black Women’s Voices, Bodies and Supernaturalness

Otherworldly Videos: Kina Sky + Ain’t Nothing But a She Thing

Sorry everyone that I have been gone so long. I kind of was distracted for a bit. But I am back! In light of some of the recent internet controversies that happened last week, including one involving Harriet Tubman (shame on you Russell!), here is a some uplifting videos: 1) Kina Sky from Jamaican filmmaker Corretta Singer (found her film on caribBEING) 2) and an oldie but goodie — Salt n Pepa’s “Ain’t Nothing But a She Thing.” Enjoy!

“Kina Sky is a short sci-fi digitally animated fantasy film… The lead character, who the movie is named after, is a cyborg who takes to flight and must overcome obstacles along the way.”

Continue reading Otherworldly Videos: Kina Sky + Ain’t Nothing But a She Thing