All posts by Aker

Owner of Futuristically Ancient. Literary Director at Queens Book Festival. Writer. Poet. Afrofuturistic Mythologist. Afro-Caribbean in Queens. Life Explorer. Contact me: futureancientblog [at] gmail [dot] com

Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from “Black Magic: Afro Pasts/Futures”


Yesterday was the anniversary of Nat Turner’s rebellion, and with the growing controversy surrounding the film due to Nate Parker’s rape trial from 17 years ago, my desire to watch the film has been mostly vaporized. But last weekend as I went through my photos, I came across Delphine Fawundu’s “Mende Woman on Nat Turner Plantation” and the other artworks exhibited at the Black Magic: Afro Pasts/Futures exhibition in May. Looking at the art again inspired a new set of poems from me (in addition to Beloved, which I read in full last week). Read the poetry and take a look at some of the art below:

This collection of poems is called, Black: Where Past and Future Become One; Where Magic Is Birthed.

Continue reading Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from “Black Magic: Afro Pasts/Futures”

“Space:Queens”: Lacresha Berry


Lacresha Berry
Photo by Kim-Julie Hansen (@kimjuliehansen)

As I currently work on my fantasy novel based in Queens and inspired by the Underground Railroad (two of the characters are based on Harriet Tubman and William Still), I look forward to featuring others who are continuing to share the legacy of our ancestors and heroes who fought for freedom and for us to be here in this moment today.

 

One of those people is Lacresha Berry, a local Queens-based educator, singer-songwriter and playwright. Currently, she is writing a one-woman show about Harriet Tubman and t-shirt line for Air Tubman. Continue reading to find out more about her and her previous and upcoming work within the community.

 

“I just felt it was important to understand our histories in context to the larger global community and tell stories that haven’t been told. Instead of complaining about not being taught these things, I wanted to create a conversation that there are black Kentuckians. We exist and we helped to shape the state that it is today. We contributed to country music, blues and bluegrass.”

 

1)      Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Lacresha Berry and I’m an artist—educator, artivist, singer-songwriter, playwright, actress, and sometimes lyricist. I was raised in the great state of Kentucky. I came to NYC—actually this month, in 2003. So, I guess you can say I’m a New Yorker now. Well, at least I live the life of one. I graduated from the University of Kentucky with a BA in theatre. I came to NYC for grad school at NYU. At the time, I was really into costume design and got accepted at Tisch for Costume Design for Stage and Film. I ended going for about a year and began full time teaching in 2005 after stints of being a sub and after-school teacher.

Continue reading “Space:Queens”: Lacresha Berry

Moving on the Wires: Baby I’m Back and With Some News!


Hey everyone! I finally have downtime after the Queens Book Festival last Sunday, so I wanted to give you some updates and reminders about projects and other housekeeping stuff:

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“Self-Portrait” by Jean-Michel Basquiat

*Did you know I am on PATREON! I updated my page recently and you can visit my page here to find out about what I am working on currently. Please consider becoming one of my patrons, any amount is appreciated!

*Speaking of which, I also began a project called J. Expressions Bookshop! It is an initiative to support and promote authors and writers in Southeast Queens and to promote the need for more bookstores in Queens, especially in this area. If you are an author, writer, book artist, book lover and want  to collaborate, you can visit my website for more information and my instagram page.

*By the way, if you are in the Southeast Queens area, there is a new meetup writing group, Springfield Gardens Poetry/Writing, which will include workshops and will “explore world building for fantasy, sci-Fi, and paranormal.” The first meeting is August 26th!

*I designed a basic logo for Space:Queens! It’s Basquiat-inspired, but I’m not unveiling it yet. Stay tuned to see what it looks like!

*Space:Queens will return next week with Lacresha Berry!

 

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“Space:Queens”: Poetic Inventions Workshop


Hey everyone! I have exciting news! On June 26th from 2:30-5pm, I will be facilitating a workshop at the Lewis Latimer House Museum!

If you are not aware, Lewis Latimer was a 19th-early 20th century African-American self-taught inventor and draftsman, who worked with Thomas Edison and was greatly involved in the development of the light bulb, specifically in the production of carbon filaments. He lived in the same house in Flushing, Queens, which was later moved to location it is now and was turned into a museum. Not only was Latimer an inventor, but he also was a poet, playwright and painter. He was truly a polymath!

My workshop will explore the intersections between writing, invention and social change, three areas important to Latimer; we will analyze his poetry (and also a poem inspired by one of his poems); and attendees will be given prompts to write their own poetry. If you are in NYC and are interested, please RSVP at the email in the flyer!

I hope to see you there!IMG_0442

 

“Space:Queens”: Timeless at The Black Spectrum Theatre


12243144_10153701781658695_4582097461109313103_nLast Friday, I was privileged with a ticket to attend Black Spectrum Theatre’s play Timeless: The Mystery of Dark Water, written by the theater’s founder, Carl Clay. This was my first time seeing a play at the theater in recent memory and if I had to sum up the play with four M’s, it would be Mind Research, Memories, Mystery and Murder!

For those who are not aware of it and its history, The Black Spectrum Theatre was founded in 1970 in Roy Wilkins Park in Jamaica, Queens, and its mission has been to bring African-American cultural expression and the American contemporary theater and film to the local community.

Clay’s Timeless follows a New York insurance employee, Kyle, who is under interrogation by police after his girlfriend, Mya, a psychotherapist, is found murdered. What comes after is a story that explores memory, past lives, reincarnation, and connections between people across time and space.

Inspired by his own life experiences in April 1994 and works like that of psychotherapist Brian L. Weiss, who does hypnosis and past life regression, Clay manages to explore this psycho-spiritual concept without any heavy-handedness and turning audiences off from engaging with it. Using the plot of a romance/murder mystery with a bit of humor, the play was down-to-earth and captivating with enough suspense and clever manipulation of lighting, film screen and sound effects to pull us in as audience into its web.

The character Kyle (played by the charming actor with a commanding presence Reginald L. Barnes) meets “by chance” Mya (played by Claudia Rodriguez, who provides an strong foil for Kyle, especially towards the end in the more emotional scenes) at the bar Josie’s. Through meeting Mya and undergoing her hypnosis/dream therapy sessions, Kyle discovers knowledge about himself beyond the daily life he lives currently. Those in his life from Mya to his best friend Mel to the detectives in the investigation to even the bartenders at the bar are all connected to his life in the present and in his distant pasts.

Over the course of the play, we see Kyle gathering fragments from previous lives, including being a soldier on a war submarine, a farmer who leaves his marriage to find aIMG_0422 new life in the city and other lives further back in time. Mya and him are brought closer as they find out that they have met before in another life and clues and events in their lives have crossed time and space. One in particular is an ex-husband who wants revenge for the cheating wife who leaves him, even if its means getting it in the next life. With a criminal mystery crossing through time, the detective work is much more complex and left us all guessing who the vengeful murderer was until the last moment because with reincarnation that person could be anyone.

The twist and turns of this murder mystery resembles well the twist and turns of the
mystery of life and past lives. The unresolved nature of the story and the unresolved, unending nature of life and the soul allows the story to possibly continue into the future (and I wouldn’t mind a sequel). It gives the play a Borges-like feel to it, much like in his short story collection Labyrinths, which includes stories, like “Death and the Compass;” both have themes of a deeper search for meaning in life, the metaphysical interconnection of all things and spaces through all time, and murder and detective work.

In Timeless, death becomes a revealer of life’s lessons and truth and that in this universe all live and stories are interwoven across time and space in a mystical round, a perpetual motion of creation. Like spiritual detectives, we are forced to lift the veil of separation between us and between the past, present and future to go deeper to new dimensions. It is as Mya says, a future exploration by journeying through the inner space to a higher consciousness.

Go see Timeless, showing for the next two weekends: Friday-Saturday 8pm and Sunday 4pm!

And here’s a treat from the small museum inside the theater – a poster from an earlier Carl Clay play!

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“Space:Queens” : Margaret Rose Vendryes


 

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Source: Margaretrosevendryes.com

Welcome back to my Space:Queens blog series!

For the past month, I’ve been participating on the advisory council committee and as a creative writing workshop facilitator for the upcoming No Longer Empty exhibition, Jameco Exchange, that is opening on May 21st at 89-62B 165th St. No Longer empty is an organization that works with local artists and community members in various neighborhoods throughout NYC to revitalize empty storefront spaces and other underutilized properties.

One of the exhibiting artists and performers will be Margaret Rose Vendryes, a local York College art professor and artist behind the African Divas Project, which combines traditional African mask ritual with iconic Black woman music divas. Her work comments on the intersections between traditional masquerade, spectacle, celebrity, iconography, beauty ideals, gender and racial performance, and spiritual ritual.

 

1) Tell the readers a little about yourself.

I was born in Kingston, Jamaica and (with the exception of my first 5 years and two years of high school), and raised in Queens as the third of six daughters and one son.

I completed a BA at Amherst College in Western Massachusetts, an MA at Tulane University in New Orleans and a second MA and PhD at Princeton University in New Jersey. With only four studio art courses at Amherst College, the majority of my higher education was in art history concentrating on American art.

I continued to paint when I could, usually during the summer months. Finally, I began my full-time teaching career in 1997, and continue to teach both art history and now, studio courses, at York College, CUNY.

2) What first inspired you to start the African Diva Project?

In 2007, I left NYC, and teaching, for Boston where I had the opportunity to focus on painting.  It was a huge risk that I was compelled to take.  That summer, I spent a month in Mali, West Africa.  I returned so thoroughly inspired, not so much by the art made there, which is awesome, but by the way artists appeared fulfilled by making their art. They were whole in a way that I wanted to be.

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Baule Donna

Although understood in retrospect, my African Diva Project began in 2005 with a painting of Donna Summer from the back of her Four Seasons of Love LP.  I painted her wearing a Baule mask (Côte d’Ivoire) from my African art collection.  That painting, which I thought would be just one experiment and am still changing as the mood inspires me, helped me realize that I had a “project” when I returned home to face it waiting for me on my easel. I finally saw myself as a driven visual artist as much as an art historian with a purpose.  I invented a hybrid professional category for myself, I am an “Artist Historian.”

Continue reading “Space:Queens” : Margaret Rose Vendryes

Space:Queens: Shanté Paradigm Smalls


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Source: Shanté Paradigm Smalls blog

Greetings Everyone!

Welcome back to the next installation of my Space: Queens segment!

Last Saturday, I attended the 2nd annual Afrofuturism conference at The New School and in the panel I attended, Conjuring Black Futures, moderator, Jamal Lewis mentioned that conjuring is associated with possibility, the “otherwise.”

I had the pleasure to interview Shanté Paradigm Smalls, a local professor at Queens’ own St. John’s University, and how she is manifesting the “otherwise” in her own work involving sci-fi, fantasy, comics, hip-hop, and queer studies.

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1) Tell the readers a little about yourself.
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Sure. I live in Brooklyn and I’m an Assistant Professor of  African American Literature & Culture at St. John’s University in Queens. I grew up between New York City (Queens and Harlem) and Connecticut. I’m a huge pop culture fan and I love music, sci fi and fantasy, and comics.
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2) Tell us about your current projects. I read that you are working on two projects — “Hip Hop Heresies: New York City’s Queer Aesthetics” and “Androids, Cyborgs, Others: Black Futurism, Black Fantasy.” 
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So, I’m finishing up my first scholarly manuscript Hip Hop Heresies: New York City’s Queer Aesthetics which traces queer articulations of race, gender, and sexuality in New York City hip hop culture from the mid-70s to roughly the present. I do this by examining film, music, and visual art. It’s a really fun project that started with my work when I was a Masters’ student at NYU and then I further developed it in my doctoral program in Performance Studies at Tisch. I plan on turning the manuscript into the press by early summer.  The second project, Androids, Cyborgs, Others is in its nascent stages, but is concerned with depictions of black futurity in music, tv and film, and genre writing (including comics). The great thing about both these projects is I get to take my life-long love of hip hop culture and sci-fi and do scholarly, critical work on them. My life is really pretty amazing.

Continue reading Space:Queens: Shanté Paradigm Smalls