Tag Archives: Black Women

M.G. Interviews: Yasmine Lancaster and Ida B. Wells for President Posters


Today is “Columbus Day,” and as you all may be well aware of there is the growing controversy of whether to keep or remove statues of Columbus and other problematic white figures of history. There is also the growing conversation of replacing these statues with statues of civil rights heroes and other notable black figures. Instantly, I was 1 Yasminereminded of my good friend, Yasmine Lancaster, who recently did an afrofuturist-inspired project where she imagined what it would have been like if Ida B. Wells had run for president. Begun as an earlier project where she hung smaller signs around the Bronx, she eventually evolved them into a larger poster-length size.

Recently I did an interview with Yasmine so I could share with you the backstory on the project! Here it is:

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The bottom of the poster reads: Supported by Chicago Conservator and the Republican Women’s Club

1) What was the inspiration behind your Ida B. Wells for President Posters?

The inspiration behind the Ida B. Wells for President poster was the current political climate in the United States, particularly in New York City. It was the election of 2016 and there was this intensity in the air on who would be the next president of United States. We were leaving the Obama era of politics and heading into uncharted territory with either a woman who would be president or Donald Trump. There was a buzz in the air. I had spent the summer doing interactive art projects asking the public to take what they need. I was inspired by another artist who had did something similar but in my case I replaced the take what you needs. Instead of “Joy” and “Happiness,” I replaced them with very “Black Girl Magic” things like “Perfect twist out,” “Melanin Filled Day,” and of course, “Black Girl Magic. “ Folks responded well to the post and most would be gone by the end of the day, so feeling encouraged by the response I decided to expand and I began to imagine what if someone else was running for president. So I put up little signs in Harlem around 125 street saying “Ida B. Wells for President” and it felt subversive because unlike the other take what you need posters, this was a little bit more politically overt and it was exciting! I also posted different “Black Woman for President” — some names controversial. I was asking my community to reimagine a new possibility, a different reality.  And it continues to be exciting!

mary_garrity_-_ida_b-_wells-barnett_-_google_art_project_-_restoration_crop2) What were some of the books and other sources that you researched to help flesh out the project?

I read some biographies about Ida B. Wells and I watched some documentaries that focused on her life. A Passion for Justice was the main documentary I watched along with several others as well. It was necessary to do the research to figure out what year she would have ran for President, who would have endorsed her, etc., etc. That part was fun and fascinating, and in the course of my research I found out some interesting facts about Ida that I was not aware of. For example, in the course of doing the research, I found out that she ran for Illinois State senate. She came in third, which is amazing, and so here I am thinking that I am reimagining some far out future when the truth is actually I wasn’t too far off at all — she did run for public office. It makes you wonder what other hidden histories are not known about Black Women in America.

3) What was the process like for creating the posters?

The process of creating the actual posters was a collaborative effort with Meghan Forbes (of Harlequin Creature) and Romeo Silvero*. Meghan Forbes did the research on finding the proper visual representation for the time period, which was important we wanted it to feel like something that you could have accidentally come across in history that you didn’t know existed. We wanted it to have that feel. The first printing we weren’t able to get the paper to look processed and old but we hope to have future presses have that feel. Cost was a huge part of the process and getting clearance for her visual image so what was done was a drawing was made of her likeness by Romeo Silvero.  Romeo is a pre-teen and so it was amazing to have youth be involved in the process as well. 

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Yasmine with Romeo and his mother

4) Do you plan on doing other black women as part of a series or expanding the project in another way?

I do plan on expanding the series and including other Black Women into the series. I also could see this branching out into merchandise that folks could purchase as well. The women that I am choosing to highlight are heroes and we each have our own personal hero that we will respond to. Black Women are the backbone of this country; its about time that we be seen as such.

5) How do you see your project as afrofuturistic?

I foresee this project as being Afro-Futuristic because we are imagining the past and creating an alternate reality in which these amazing black women were stepping up and tossing their proverbial church hat into the ring to run the United States of America, a country that historically has treated Black Women as a community that can be ignored and disregarded, as unfit to be leaders because of their race and their gender. However, in this alternate reality, they make the choice that their vision is exactly what America needs. That leadership is both black and woman and perfectly aligned to make this country step into the future.

6) Since this is Futuristically Ancient, how are you and your work both futuristic and ancient?

Well the future aspect I already discussed because I am reimagining an alternate reality in which these women ran for President of the United States. How my work is ancient is that the idea of a woman as a leader is something that was quite common in the ancient world. Black Women were leaders of nations during antiquity, and so I am paying homage to that, but also reimagining a different America in which this happened. What would this future look like? Feel like? How would it be like our current reality and how would it be different?

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7) Where can the readers find out more about your work?

Readers can find my work on line on Instagram @youwannatellher. They can follow me on that page — that particular page is a visual expression of a collection of poems that I wrote that all begin with the title “You wanna Tell Her.” In addition, the Ida B. Wells posters are being sold at Sister Uptwon Bookstore, which is located at 1942 Amsterdam Avenue. It is a black woman-owned bookstore in the middle of Washington Heights. It was the perfect home for the posters.

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Thank you Yasmine! And please do head to Sisters Uptown Bookstore to get one of your own Ida B. Wells for President posters!

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M.G. Recap: The Bag Lady Manifesta


Based on Taja Lindley’s solo healing performance ritual that debuted at La Mama’s SQUIRTS in 2015, “This Ain’t A Eulogy” is drawing parallels between discarded materials and the violent treatment of Black people in the United States. People in the African Diaspora have a long history of repurposing, remixing, and transforming oppressive systems into valuable cultural practices. In this post-Ferguson moment, Lindley is calling on this legacy to imagine how we can recycle the energy of protest, rage, and grief into creating a world where, indeed, Black Lives Matter. “This Ain’t A Eulogy” is the origin story of The Bag Lady, and serves as a preamble to Lindley’s one woman show “The Bag Lady Manifesta” which debuted at Dixon Place on September 9th.

Below is my review of The Bag Lady Manifesta:

 

dream where every black person is standing by the ocean

& we say to her

what have you done with our kin you swallowed?

& she says

that was ages ago, you’ve drunk them by now

& we don’t understand

& then one woman, skin dark as all of us

walks to the water’s lip, shouts Emmett, spits

&, surely, a boy begins

crawling his way to the shore

by Danez Smith

from Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems

Last week, I read this poem from Danez Smith and I was reminded of it again when watching Taja Lindley debut her The Bag Lady Manifesta on the night of September 9th at Dixon Place.

One question I left with was: what is our responsibility to remember, especially remembering a past still struggling to speak? Is remembering like being Lot’s wife who had the audacity to look back when the world was ending and in ruins? And like salt can be healing, Lindley’s Bag Lady Manifesta was a ritual performance in search of healing — healing that involved giving reverence to people, pasts and even parts of ourselves that we can so easily throw away. Because as Lindley had put up on one of the walls — “letting go is a lie,” we always carry them with us.

Continue reading M.G. Recap: The Bag Lady Manifesta

The M(N)STRY: Black Girls and Fugitivity


Remember this song from Ludacris and Mary J. Blige? “Runaway Love” came to my mind last week when the stories of the Missing DC girls started to spread throughout media. One particular story highlighted a young girl who ran away because she felt mistreated in foster family.

Much too often the mistreatment of young black girls are ignored and neglected. Black girls stories go untold. Society, including black culture does not see them as being as much in harm’s way as young black boys. But young black girls are in danger too, including suffering from the risk of sexual assault committed by grown men, boys and even authority figures, abusive and neglectful families, and also receiving higher rates of suspension, expulsion and harsher punishment from schools and police than their white counterparts. For example, this story of Ashlynn Avery, who was attacked by her suspension supervisor for falling asleep in class and then violently arrested.

Continue reading The M(N)STRY: Black Girls and Fugitivity

M.G. Reviews: Rasheedah Phillips’ The Telescoping Effect


telescopingeffecteclipsecoverupdatedversion1-26-17_201_400sqOne of my favorite mottos is to find the magic in the mundane because in doing so you realize how interdependent we all are to each other and to the universe. When we look at the sun and moon, we are so normalized to them that we can easily forget how we are dependent on them for our existence and how much they shape our existence. It has been our ability to use our imagination to see the world beyond the mundane and search for knowledge and meaning as well as our creation of technologies to observe the universe that has allowed us to see that. As I was reading Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s “Race is/as Technology, or How to Do Things to Race,“she writes that “According to Martin Heidegger in his 1955 ‘The Question Concerning Technology,’ the essence of technology is not technological. Indeed, by examining tools, we miss what is essential about technology, which is its mode of revealing or “enframing.” So how does the creation of technologies to look and observe also reveal ourselves? Who is watching who and who is creating who at the same time?

Warning: some spoilers ahead!

Continue reading M.G. Reviews: Rasheedah Phillips’ The Telescoping Effect

“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

Modern Griots Reviews: Nichol Bradford’s The Sisterhood


“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds…” – Marcus Garvey/Bob Marley

71maqobuaklEveryone wants to be free, but most people don’t know how to be free. Either we are physically enslaved and imprisoned, or we are mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and financially in bondage. The latter are mostly invisible chains; it is harder to be conscious of their existence and how to escape them. It is hard to be conscious of the ways in which we who have been oppressed internalize and repeat the oppression that has been placed upon us.

Inspired by the women she met in her life, like her late mother and other women leaders she met in the AKA, African-American MBA Association and business school, Nichol Bradford set out to write a mission-driven story that explores those very ideas. Through the genre of political action thriller, Bradford sets a world where black women are the main leaders and heroes, and are taking back their freedom. After a decade of writing and then publishing the book, The Sisterhood has inspired many women with the tools they need to go after their true purpose in life.

Instead of creating simply a self-help or motivational book, Bradford instead wrote a riveting novel of what can be called “applied fiction.” Because sometimes the best way to teach is through a story and Bradford shows it!

Continue reading Modern Griots Reviews: Nichol Bradford’s The Sisterhood

Modern Griots Interviews: Nichol Bradford and The Sisterhood Part 2


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Nichol Bradford Source: TTConf.org

Welcome back to part 2 of my interview with Nichol Bradford, author of the novel, The Sisterhood!

For a bit of a refresher, please read Part 1!

In the second half of the interview, Nichol tells us more about her career and her vision for implementing aspects of video gaming into her work at the Willow Group, where she is developing her ideas of “transformative technology.” If you have not read Amiri Baraka’s “Technology and Ethos,” you should because I believe it gives a great context into understanding Nichol’s mission for the Willow Group and The Sisterhood.

 

5) You wrote that you are “fascinated by human potential,” and have “always been interested in how technology can help individuals expand beyond their perceived limits to develop and transform themselves to the highest level.” What is your specific definition of technology and in what ways can humans create innovations in technology and create a culture of technology that benefits and strengthens society more than harm it?

For me, technology is defined as any time human beings create processes or devices to do things. The baseline spirit remains the same whether it’s an arrow tip chipped from stone, or meditation, or a mainframe, or your iPhone. The key to understand is that “technology” is not going away, because the curiosity and experimentation of humanity is not going away. So fast forward to today, and the tech we have now, and it means get used to it, AND develop ways to live with it and specifically design technology to support our softer side – our psychology, our emotions, and our storytelling that reminds us what matters most.

” I’m a bit of a Trekkie, so of course I love the Holodeck. But if you dig beneath that concept, it becomes about using technology to explore our inner landscapes.”

This brings us to transformative technology, which at its core says harness that design for our internal betterment and not just our productivity. So this can be anything from a meditation app to bio-feedback to more intensive interventions like direct stimulation. The purpose of these specific examples addresses the essential part of our question, which is how do we create a technology culture that benefits society, and the answer is that we focus our extraordinary human creativity and curiosity on designing interventions that teach pause, reduce fear and thus fear based attacks, and allow us to become more aware so that we can choose our response rather than be dragged along by our fight/flight responses to life.

6) How did working in the gaming industry influence your writing, human psychology and social interaction? How does technology, psychology, gaming, storytelling and mythmaking, and social culture intersect and influence one another?

The thing that drew me to gaming was the intersection between technology and storytelling, and the idea that we could use this platform to understand and enhance ourselves. I’m a bit of a Trekkie, so of course I love the Holodeck. But if you dig beneath that concept, it becomes about using technology to explore our inner landscapes. The thread that runs from games to my novel to my adventures in meditation has been exploration for the purpose of freedom. True mental freedom – attaining this, enabling this, scaling this combines technology, psychology, gaming, storytelling, mythmaking, and social culture.

7) What inspired you to start The Willow Group and can you explain your idea of “transformative technology?”

The last decade found me exploring the idea of transformative technology in the video game industry, where I served as a senior executive with responsibility for strategy, operations, and marketing for games internationally for major brands that include: Activision/Blizzard, Disney, and Vivendi. Most recently I managed the operations of Blizzard properties, including World of Warcraft, in China. During this time, I also began to meditate and saw interesting parallels between it and gaming. Both enable delight, flow, and access to dynamic states of consciousness. Meditation, though, goes even further and can profoundly and positively impact well-being. It seemed logical to me that technologies that directly impact human experience could do so as well, but no one seemed to be seriously working on it. So, I left Blizzard to pioneer Transformative Technology.

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Poster for Inaugural TTC Event last month

For the last year I have applied my strategy and execution skills to creating and enabling these types of profound impacts via technology. I started by partnering with one of the largest academic research projects in the space and helping them take an experiment online. This provided critical data at a scale that didn’t yet exist regarding what was possible.

Next, I began to seek out and work with others who understood the potential. Together we started to form a nascent industry and its needed infrastructure. This has grown to the point that the first Transformative Technology Conference happened in Palo Alto this Fall.

My contribution to this burgeoning industry includes co-founding a transformative technology company, and a university research lab to create and produce hardware and software that will revolutionize how traditional approaches like meditation are updated and made more reliable and effective. Meditation has been proven to have a powerful impact on well-being, focus, and emotional regulation, especially during stress. The presence found in meditation is similar to the heightened flow states achieved in games or sports, except that it brings the sensation of flow more deeply into daily life. These products will bring the infrastructure of experiences like gaming to the adventure of personal transformation, and deliver it on a global scale.

“…During this time, I also began to meditate and saw interesting parallels between it and gaming. Both enable delight, flow, and access to dynamic states of consciousness…”

8) What future plans do you have for yourself, your writing career and The Sisterhood? Do you plan to have a sequel?

The Sisterhood is a part of a trilogy, all of which are outlined. I’m focused on getting part one out to as many women as possible and then will hide myself away somewhere and write the sequel.

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You can find out more about The Sisterhood and Nichol Bradford’s work at: http://www.mskincorporated.com  and http://www.nicholbradford.com

Coming Soon:

Stay tuned for my review of The Sisterhood!