For the last Rewind post for this month, here is an episode from the Black History Month episode of Sister, Sister “I Have a Dream,” where Tamera is struggling with life changes and moving forward. She has a dream where she travels through the past meeting different well-known black figures who made a change in the world, and discovers that while change and the future can be scary, she is not alone because those who came before had to overcome the same fears to clear the path to a better future. The last scene we see that someone travels from the future to her to let her know that there are people who depend on her in the future, just as we did with our ancestors. Sankofa!
This month, I attended two poetry events, David Mills’ dramatic performance of Langston Hughes’ works and Elizabeth Alexander’s conversation on Lucille Clifton’s mystical, shaman-like poetry, reminded me that so much magic can condensed into few and sometimes simple words; they made magic out of the ordinary. Below are some poems from Hughes and Clifton as well as notes from Alexander’s lecture and the exhibition at the Poet’s House, which will close in March.
Hughes was often criticized by modernist poets who saw his poems as old-fashioned or lacking the supposed complexity of modern poetry. But Hughes was not writing for them, who were usually white male critics; he was writing for the people he came from and you see it in his short works, plays and poetry, including standardizing the form of blues poetry. The veneer of simplicity and rhyming sentimentality often hid within his work a complexity of culture and wisdom that was often not respected or seen in high-regard, if at all.
“Sun is his grave,/Moon is, stars are,/Space is his grave.” – “Lumumba’s Grave”
Bear in mind
that death is a drum
beating on forever,
till the last worms come
to answer its call,
till the last stars fall,
until the last atom
is no atom at all,
until time is past
and there is no air
and space itself
is nothing, nowhere.
Death is a drum,
a signal drum,
*Please DONATE to my blog at the side of my blog to fund trademarking and future merchandising, and to continue my ability to attend future events. Doing this costs money!!! Anything helps!!! Thank you!!!!
Update: *Unnamed Press announced the NYC launch of PEN Fellow Deji Bryce Olukotun’s book Nigerians in Space. He will be in a conversation with Joel Whitney of Guernica and Al Jazeera at Word Brooklyn on February 26th at 7pm. For more information click here.
*Saul Williams and Sanford Biggers will be in conversation at the Studio Museum on Thursday, February 2 at 7pm. They will explore “the sonic, visual and textual in their practices in the context of Afrofuturist aesthetics.” The day after, Columbia University along with the Studio Museum will be presenting John Akomfrah’s film about Stuart Hall, who recently passed away. Buy tickets for the Williams and Biggers talk here.
*Frances Bodomo’s Afronauts will be part of The Film Society at Lincoln Center and MOMA’s New Directors/New Films festival in March. Tickets for general audiences go on sale March 10.
*Che Grayson and Sharon De La Cruz’s Rigamo Film and Comic Book project. The project is about a Kera Moore, “a young girl who accidentally stumbles upon a secret ability: her tears bring people back to life. However, there is one caveat: when she brings someone back to life, she ages by multiple years.”
*Wax Poetics’ “Not Just Knee Deep: Deep in conversation with Shock G” of Digital Underground talks about his influences, like George Clinton in this interview: Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.
*Bitch Magazine’s “Black to the Future:” Women in Afrofuturism featuring Janelle Monae, Missy Elliot, THEESatisfaction, Ebony Bones and Martine Syms.
Last week, I attended the premiere of the Detroit techno icon Jeff Mills‘ film, Man from Tomorrow, and the film and following conversation stirred some thoughts. Overall, the 45-minute, Jacqueline Caux-directed film was a surreal journey into Mills mindset as a DJ, mixing his music with Caux’s otherworldly imagery. There are obvious abstract influences from films like Metropolis and 2001 Space Odyssey. The film begins with an epileptic-inducing sequence filled with his percussive womb-like sounds and flickering and distorting images that play with shadow, light and colors. It then switches to a scene were a group of people dressed in dark colors move in some sort of a trance state around in a circle and a straight-line march within this blank, minimalist space. Jeff MIlls eventually separates himself from this crowd going into his own heavenly space. Throughout the later part of the film, we hear his thoughts in a voiceover on progress, change and the future, our nomadic nature, space exploration and human self-discovery, the circling of time (that things can be revisted if the context of the circumstance has changed), time travel through music, and creating new language as we expand into our future.
Hearing Jeff Mills in conversation after the film, gave me some more context for the film. As a DJ, his constant travel, recording in studios and his performing, which is usually done away from the crowd, leads him to a kind of detachment, loss of placement and isolation. Music and sound, ephemeral and transient as they are, are the things he finds most reliable and able to shape. We see that within the foundation of the film. However, I do wonder if that sense of detachment could possibly also give him a superman (or even time lord) mentality, where he feels outside of time and space, kind of above and separate from everything else even while surrounded by them? How does that affect how he sees afrofuturism since based on his research, he thinks it is not as futuristic as he would like it to be. Is futurism suppose to look only one way?
When it comes to depictions of black people in history from the Medieval era to the 20th century, the tendency is to show us only as slaves or to downplay stories outside of that narrative. But black people have existed in various forms throughout these periods of time within and outside the narrow scope of slave narratives. Many contemporary creatives have explored and are exploring these times to reconstruct and highlight those histories. Through speculative and historical revision stories in steamfunk, dieselfunk, rococoa/black medieval, and black westerns, they are showing us in a broader light, opening the door for everyone to revisit those times to include more of our faces and stories. Below are a few examples and resources to learn about and enjoy: