Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month. This month I will post reviews and lists of black speculative works that I’ve read recently. By the way, please support my Go Fund Me as I raise money to get a new laptop and continue building my writing career. Here is my review of The Underground Railroad:
It is 2016 and although times have changed, sometimes it feels like deja vu when I see one after another incidents of state-sanctioned violence and injustice done towards black people. Sometimes I wonder if things are for certain changing or just changing costume and name, that time is just changing its face and the past and present are collapsing in on each other. Our concept of freedom shapeshifts as much as the injustice and violence; with every change in environment; it is another way we have to adapt and strategize on how to fight back.
Art historians gush over his white artistic influences: Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Cy Twombly and Franz Kline figure prominently. No argument here. The western art tradition, jealously guarded by a ‘high art’ priesthood, had to justify Basquiat’s membership. Basquiat, no dummy, wanted fame.
Celebrity required cultural legitimacy, an artistic heritage defined by the western art canon. His first dealer, Annina Nosei, helped to fashion his art pedigree (fig. 2). Basquiat was complicit in this action. “Picasso” writes Dick Hebridge, could afford to leave the marketing and manufacturing of the iconic self to future generations.” Not so for Basquiat. His blackness remained an issue. Luca Marensi writes: “The use of some imagery, specifically black or African, leaves no trace that would allow an uninformed viewer to suppose the painter is black.”
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.
I took a picture of this poem while I was visiting a cousin of mine and I thought it was fitting for the theme of my blog and afrofuturism that is emphasized with the the images of Saturn and stars in the background, the procession of black people with flames over their heads, and the object behind them that looks like either a rocket ship or a monument. The work is a collaboration between poet Daniel Marks and artist Bobby Moore.
You can see this and other photos I take on my instagram.
Conor Tomás Reed did a post describing “Caribbean Futurisms” and listing a few books that would fall under the term as well as other sources for Afrofuturism, in which I was included:
“Considered within this conditional crux, Caribbean cultural forms have developed a conscious capacity to play with time and space, especially within the last century. For example, a Caribbean novel can leap “forward,” as well as “backward,” as well as speculatively vault “across” times, because its people have been integral to the creation of how human activity is narratively measured. As well, a Caribbean novel can traverse lands from around this world and others because its people, their ancestors, and new generations travel these vast distances.
Barbados cultural fact for the day: Since Kara Walker did the Marvelous Sugar Baby sphinx, did you know that sugar cane is an important industry in Barbados. Its coat of arms has a fist of a Barbadian holding two sugar canes that are crossed to resemble St. Andrews Cross.
*Speaking of Kara Walker, there is a lot of discussion and controversy surrounding the work she did (as usual with her work). The intention of her piece at its core is deep and though-provoking, highlighting the exploitation of black people to produce cash crops, like sugar, the sexual exploitation and degradation of black women, but also the simultaneous fascination with and sacredness of black women in the use of the sphinx pose, the exploitation of lower wage workers like those who used to work in the Domino Factory, and the refinement of certain products like sugar (another is vanilla) that mimics the erasure of black and brown people. Hilton Als discusses more in The New Yorker. Still, although I get it, the danger of art is always that other will not because they do not know the historical context and it will become a spectacle. Already many are mentioning how people are taking pictures, smiling and laughing around the artwork instead of contemplating it. It’s a tightrope issue of intention of art and the audiences’ reception of it.
*I was wondering what happened to the HowDoYouSayYamInAfrican’s (The YAMS collective) film showing at The Whitney; it seemed to have disappeared. This is what happened. Mainstream institutions being racially problematic -check!
*CCCADI (The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute) will be hosting a series of events starting Thursday with a pop-up exhibition at the 1885 historical landmark firehouse on 125th street that they are renovating as their new space. The event, “The Spirit of El Barrio: Past, Present, and Future,” starts at 11am and will feature artists “Adrian Roman, Edgardo Miranda, Manny Vega, Oliver Rios and Yasmin Hernandez, with a special live painting by guest artist Edgardo Larregui. Some of the works of art will incorporate Augmented Reality technology, providing a small preview to one of the future opening exhibitions of CCCADI.”
Update: Due to a large volume of people wanting to attend, there will be two tours of the popup exhibition. The first will have speakers Marta Moreno Vega, the founder of CCCADI, and Senator Bill Perkins, and the second tour will have New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
“I recently decided to participate in a fundraiser for “Atlantic Impact’s Abroad for a Cause Challenge” who is inviting two bloggers to join them in a trip abroad to Barbados. Atlantic Abroad is a nonprofit organization that provides low-income and at-risk youth “with year-round programming so they can better understand the state of their communities, which includes community exploration and international travel.” I know as someone who comes from a financially disadvantaged background, study abroad organizations, like YFU, and college study abroad, gave me the opportunity to travel to both Japan and London. If they did not exist, I would not have been able to travel and those experiences helped me to expand my imagination and grow as a person.
Here are Atlantic Impact’s Goals:
To create a national movement which impacts urban youth across the country surrounding an experience which has shaped our nation’s past, present, and future – the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade.
To bring awareness to youth on a personal level as to how a nationally and globally significant experience impacts their lives and individual communities.
To use historical and cultural examples as a model for success in the lives of at-risk urban youth.
To self-empower youth through understanding that they are capable and ready to become agents of change in their communities, nation, and in the larger global society.
To connect and engage youth in dialogue throughout impacted countries through this globally shared experience which was directly felt across four continents, promoting important intercultural exchange for global competency.
Read more about their purpose and how the program has impacted youth here.
Why is Atlantic Impact going to Barbados this year?
“We love global historical connections! Atlantic Impact shows youth how the world is truly interconnected and how history from long ago has a lasting and significant impact around the world to this day. Last summer, when our previous group met with a British nonprofit leader in England, she talked about how she was a fierce advocate for Barbados. She had recently returned from the country herself and was amazed at the strength of connection between the UK, Barbados, and US. And so are we! Our kids are currently reading the book Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire written by Andrea Stuart, which provides constant reminders of global ties, with a focus on Barbados.”
Personally, I greatly desire to go to Barbados because it is where my mother is from and I have never been. It would be a chance for me to discover her homeland and its history. Within the past few years, I have been studying more about the history of the Caribbean, including my parents’ islands of Dominica and Barbados. Specifically for Barbados, I have learned about cultural figures like Bussa, and musical traditions like Tuk (thanks Curwen Best). It would be great to experience more of the culture in person. Also, it will be great to document my travels on this blog and connect with the others on this trip.
So, I am glad to take part and raise money for this organization. For this fundraiser, I have to raise at least $250 to get a chance to be one of the bloggers to go to Barbados. If I raise the most, I definitely will go, but if I raise over $250, I will be in pool of possible bloggers to be the second choice. I have to raise as much money as possible by June 9th.
For the next few weeks until June 9th, I will be posting interesting cultural and historical facts about Barbados in separate blog posts, with other blog posts and reblogging Barbados-related blog posts on here, and my other social media (which you can find on the contact page) as a reminder for the fundraiser!
Any donation will be appreciated! If you are unable to donate, please share! Thank you!