Modern Griots Reviews: Odysella – Empress of Nar


Despite its critics in its early days, Hip-hop as an artistic medium has spread to all corners of the Earth, but could it spread throughout the galaxy? What about world violence against young people? Chicago-author Shirley Hardy-Leonard explores these questions in her latest work, Odysella: Empress of Nar series. The series follows two main leads during the 23rd century, Odysella, a farm girl on the planet Nar who will soon learn of her real royal destiny, and War B, a Chicago rapper on a mission to jump start his career with his hip-hop group, Floss Angeles, on Mars but will find out how this trip changes his destiny, too.

Edited by her son David, Shirley Leonard’s futuristic 57-paged part one of the series pays respect to hip-hop’s past and highlights the ongoing present issues, including violence in Chicago and military coups. Leonard gives a simple-to-read yet craftily interwoven filmic plot in an urban and universal tale; and though some parts of it at times do not fit well in the story, like the use of parentheses or heavy-handed use of a few slang phrases, it is overall a compelling story with both lighthearted moments and serious ones.

One of the story’s characters declares, “There is always someone whose destiny depends on another” and that line points to the book’s theme of aligning oneself to one’s bigger purpose and mission. I am interested to see the evolution of the purpose of these two characters, Odysella and War B, as they learn to work together and lead the way to save the planet Nar and the universe against biological, political, military and economic takeover along with a range of other colorful characters in the next three parts.

The My-Stery: The Ghost of AfroFuture…


Art by Moragot

Social Death, Wounded Transformations and The Hauntings of Prophetic Tradition :

Tomorrow is Christmas and one story that came to mind in relation to afrofuturism, and especially after I watched Arthur Jafa’s Dreams Are Colder than Death, was Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and the story’s ghosts of past, present and future.

In the Western imagination, blackness, darkness and Africa (Heart of Darkness) to an extent has represented a kind of social and metaphorical death. For example, Edgar Allen Poe’s tropes of blackness and darkness representing death and evil in works like “The Raven” (the animal also representing the antithesis of the “human” in western construction) and his lesser known novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Even today, we still see the pervasiveness of it, such as Justine Sacco‘s tweet about Africa and aids, reinforcing the implication that Africa as a whole is a wasteland, a place of death only, or even ghettos across America where they are only viewed through lens of crime and death.

But that imagination also be observed within the diaspora as well. Jafa mentioned in the discussion after the film that in one particular West African indigenous group, if certain children were past the point of initiation, they were not able to be reclaimed and thus were left in the woods to die. He asked how did that relate to the diaspora; are we the monsters in the woods, the dark big bad wolf in a sense. Jafa emphasized that this was something we need to address to heal.

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Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth: Poem in Process – “A Mad Man with a Box”


Last week, I received some inspiration to write a new poem. I was watching an episode of Mysteries at the Museum and saw I segment on Henry “Box” Brown, the enslaved man who mailed himself to freedom. For some reason, the story stayed on my mind. The next morning when I watched a Doctor Who video on io9, I had an idea for a poem about Brown, taking elements from Doctor Who and elements from Brown’s life, including his “autobiography,” Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself. Brown himself led an interesting life after freedom, becoming a magician, mesmerist and was interested in animal/human magnetism and “electrobiology.” My poem builds from the idea of Brown’s escape, as Britt Rusert said, as a kind of “fugitive science.” Below is the beginning of my poem and the setting is Brown on a stage:

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Otherworldly Videos: Juice Aleem + Sharon Jones and the Dap KIngs


Juice Aleem‘s “Anumals”

From Juice Aleem’s press: “After the soaring heights of the MoorKaBa LightBikes… the journey is continued with AnuMal: the dominion of the Flesh. A dance between the sacred and the profane. Watch out for the AnuMals!”

Keep in mind the woman with the wolf/fox mask at the end while watching the next video.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings‘ “Retreat”

Directed by Lizzi Akana, the animated video looks like it takes influence from tales that included the wolf, like “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs.” Although this was released two months ago, I only recently saw it and coincidentally at the same time I was doing research on Little Red Riding Hood and the whole video gives a vibe of one mythic interpretation behind the tale, the ritual confrontation between the divine goddess and the beast or as the previous video, the sacred and profane.

Modern Griots Reviews: Birth of a Dark Nation


Imagine seeing the journey of the Black Atlantic through the memories of a centuries-old vampiric human. A DC IT specialist working at an HIV organization Justin Kena is privileged with this information when he falls for one named Dante. As he falls in love, he learns of the ancient indigenous Yoruba group, the Razadi, who are vampiric and witnesses to pre-, during, and post-slavery times in Rashid Darden‘s Birth of a Dark Nation.

Birth of a Dark Nation flips the script on traditional vampire tales from its shifting narration to its inclusion of slave narration and cultural rituals to non-Western views of the vampire to it as a same-gender loving story that confronts those who say it is a recent Western phenomenon. Darden’s previous work, Lazarus, Covenant, and Epiphany has centered on black LGBT experiences, and now he has taken that and extended it to black speculative fiction.

The story begins with a Razadi receiving orders from an elder to watch over Justin because he is considered the “key,” similar to Neo in the Matrix or any messiah-like character. Later, we are introduced to Dante, a street hustler, who Justin randomly notices and to whom he has an instant attraction. When Dante finally reveals who he is to Justin, Justin begins his transformation from the computer guy at a dead-end job to part of the Razadi family and leader in his community.

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Modern Griots Reviews: Afrofuturism – The World of Black Sci-FI and Fantasy Culture


I know I am a bit late on reviewing this one, but finally here is my review of it:

Ytasha L. Womack’s Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-fi and Fantasy Culture is a well-thought out introductory book that is a smooth blend between a personal memoir and a reference source for those interested in delving into the world of afrofuturism. Each chapter expands on the last and expands conventional ideas of what afrofuturism is, giving space to many voices within it and giving plenty space for further research into the aesthetic and lens.

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