Category Archives: Events/Festivals

“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” : 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.”

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Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School Part 2


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Several months ago I attended the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School. While due to my other work I didn’t get a chance to do a recap of the event right after, it had a profound effect on me. I took all the notes I had from it and wrote a series of poems inspired by the different panels and workshops I attended.

This is my holiday present for you! I posted Part 1 yesterday and I will leave the poems up for a few weeks. Then I will probably make a small e-book chapbook out of the poems for you to buy!

Enjoy! See you in the New Year!

 

Day Two

What is black love?

Continue reading Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School Part 2

Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School


Several months ago I attended the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School. While due to my other work I didn’t get a chance to do a recap of the event right after, it had a profound effect on me. I took all the notes I had from it and wrote a series of poems inspired by the different panels and workshops I attended.

This is my holiday present for you! Part 2 will be up tomorrow and I will leave the poems up for a few weeks. Then I will probably make a small e-book chapbook out of the poems for you to buy!

Enjoy!

 

Day One –

Constructs. Narratives.

 

The Narrative as Technology

(Inspired by Womack’s Keynote)

Continue reading Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School

The My-Stery: We Must Value Our Own Stuff Even in the Face of Doom Part 2


Source: Hot 97

If you have been following the news, you most likely have heard about Azealia Banks’ interview on Hot 97, in which she gave an honest critique of appropriation of the cultural forms that originated in black cultures: “I feel, just in this country, whenever it comes to our things, like Black issues, or Black politics, or Black music or whatever there’s always this under current of a ‘Fuck you.’ Like ‘Fuck y’all niggas. Y’all don’t really own shit. Y’all don’t have shit…Like you’re trying to smudge out…it’s like a cultural smudging is what I see. And when they give these Grammys out all it says to White kids is ‘You’re great, you’re amazing, you can do whatever you put your mind to.’ And it says to Black kids, ‘You don’t have shit, you don’t own shit, not even the shit you created for yourself.’ And it makes me upset in that way (Source: Madam Noire.).

She continued: “What bothers me is when you have the media [which] is really evil. I told you that undercurrent of like “fuck you” and the sensationalization that comes around it. There was this time in the summer where I picked up the New York Post, and the cover was ‘Hip Hop Is White.’ They do that on purpose. They’re trying to erase us. They’re trying to erase all of our books and scripture. Everything that we’re supposed to know about ourselves is gone. Completely fucking gone. Never to be seen again.

The fact that metallurgy was started in Africa – agriculture, all those things that created the world are ours. It’s really upsetting when you read your social studies textbook and all you see is stories of you under some White person’s foot or you failing… I don’t wanna share [Hip Hop] with y’all. I’m sorry I don’t…This little thing called Hip Hop that I created for myself, that I’m holding on to with my dear fucking life – I feel like it’s being snatched away from me. It’s not, but they do that just to fuck with you. Why y’all trying to fuck with me?” (Source: All Hip Hop).

But as others have said before, this is nothing new. We have had to confront cultural exploitation for a while now. The only issue I had with what Banks said is I wanted her to continue putting it in a larger context of the twinning of white supremacy and capitalism not give personal attacks. White supremacy favors whiteness over everything and everybody else, and with capitalism, it can suck dry the cultural traditions and productions of local cultures like an invasive species, breaking them from their origins and deeper meanings for empty shell trends to sell to the highest bidder. It is through these erasures of origins and decontextualization of cultural art forms that we have difficulty claiming our cultural traditions, that they were cultivated in our communities. The mainstream will quickly disregard our right to claim and benefit from them for their own greedy, personal gain. As Greg Tate said “black culture matters” and so does black contributions.

The Azealia Banks interview fit well with a recent panel I attended about our communities moving forward our presence into the future, whether it is our art forms, our rituals, our values, or our institutions, and below is the recap from the event:

Futuring the Presence of the Blackness in Arts by the Renegade Performance Group

Continue reading The My-Stery: We Must Value Our Own Stuff Even in the Face of Doom Part 2

Behind the Mask: Shakilla’s Visionary Loc Scultping


Covers of Bad Hair Uprooted by Mireille Liong of Going Natural featuring Shakilla

Recently I was part of Going If you would like Natural’s 10th anniversary photoshoot event at Afropunk and my hair was styled by a gifted hair stylist and jewelry maker Shakilla, who calls herself a loc sculptor, and her work is filled with truly divine masterpieces. Her styling business, A Manifestation of a Vision, is filled with her unique visions that she recently realized uses mathematics as well to structure the designs. The entire week and half I wore her design, I was like a mini-celebrity and even received comparison to a few characters in sci-fi films and shows. I was happy to be part of her first photoshoot to showcase her work and push her business out there more. If you would like to have your hair done by Shakilla, this is her number – 917-573-9937- and tell her I recommended her! Check out the pics below:

Continue reading Behind the Mask: Shakilla’s Visionary Loc Scultping

Modern Griots Recap: Highlights from Black Comic Book Festival


Attending the Black Comic Book Festival for the first time this year introduced me to a wide scope of the comic book world from the lens of the black community and so I wanted to share some of the creators and their works that I came across while there. It was difficult walking around the presentation tables and stopping myself from buying all the comics there, but I did get a couple:

*The first table I went to was the artist John Jennings and I purchased the African American Graphic Classics. As someone who does write poetry, this was a great find for me. It’s a similar idea to a book I had when I was younger, illustrator and author Ashley Bryan’s book of illustrated African-American poetry. Various comic and graphic artists, such as Jennings, Lance Tooks, and Afua Richardson, illustrate several short stories and poems from various authors, including Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Dunbar Nelson, W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes.

*Walking around I saw many male creators in the comic and science fiction industry, like the Craft family, N Steven Harris, Mshindo Kuumba, I enjoyed particularly seeing black women who were part of it as well, like Evolve‘s Kia Barbee. I met illustrator and animator Tiana Mone’e Scott, who has done work with Cartoon Network and PBS. At the right below was one of my favorite pieces that she had on her table. See more of her work here.

Continue reading Modern Griots Recap: Highlights from Black Comic Book Festival