With issues like gentrification and displacement of marginalized communities as well as the redevelopment of the Jamaica/Southeast Queens area, those of us who are from the area have a lot to think and worry about. What does the future of the neighborhood look like for us? Local design student, Sada Spence, who lived in Southeast Queens, decided to start a project series, called DARK, where local community members could discuss the future of the African diaspora.
I have some great news to share with you! I will be publishing my chapbook, Lucy’s Bone Scrolls: The Black Speculative Mystery School, in August!
The book is a collection of poetry inspired by the 2015 Afrofuturism Conference at The New School and the Black Magic: AfroPasts/AfroFutures exhibition. Three Legged Elephant’s (who will be publishing my book) founder Malcolm Boyd and I will be hosting a book release/author showcase event at Jamaica Performing Arts Center on August 17th from 6:30pm-8:30pm. If you are in the NYC area, I hope you can join us!
The last post for Caribbean Heritage Month is a mix between Space:Queens and Art of This World segments, featuring three visual artists whose work I’ve seen in Queens — Reginald Rosseau and his exhibition, Unmasked — Embodiment of Spirits, at Seed Capital Cafe; Nari Ward and his G.O.A.T., Again exhibition at Socrates Sculpture Park, and Fritz St. Jean who lives in the southeast Queens area and whose daughter I met a few months ago at the Queens Council on the Arts grant awardees ceremony.
“Reginald “Big Art” Rousseau is a Haitian-born and Harlem-made working artist whose artworks are generating a lot of buzz, in the hood and beyond. In addition, he is the founder of the Reginald “Big Art” Rousseau: Harlem Art Projects, a creative space located in a funky storefront which serves as part working art studio, part art gallery and part retail art store, for him to create, promote, exhibit and sell his artworks. The creative space also serves a physical space to connect with the community, collectors, curators as well as galleries.
His artistic style, which he affectionately, coined “Neo-Haitian Expressionism”, is derives from a radical fusion of Haitian Art, African Art, Street Art, POP-Art, Folk Art, Stained Glass, Pointillism, Art Nouveau and Modern Abstraction. His work, which explores multi-ethnicity and multicultural identity, are based on his own personal experiences as a Haitian, a Blackman and an Immigrant with a Haitian heritage encompassing a unique blend of African traditional customs, mixed with contributions from the French, Caribbean, Latin, American and indigenous Taíno culture. His signature work, encompasses curvilinear black lines, vibrant colors, flatness of forms, jeweled pointillism, multi-layered textures and bold patterns. On a recent interview, when asked to describes his working process, Reginald responded ‘My working process, is like jazz, with an eight-bar theme, you start it by the “T” and improvise as you go to generates rhythmic accents and beats as well as conveys emotion and power’.”
Via Socrates Scuplture Park: Jamaica-American mixed-media artist Nari Ward “recasts tropes of outdoor structures – the monument, the playground, lawn ornaments, architectural barriers, and the advertising sign – into surreal and playful creations. Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again examines how hubris creates misplaced expectations in American cultural politics. This exhibition also brings new insight into the artist’s exploration of identity, social progress, the urban environment, and group belonging.
G.O.A.T. is an acronym for Greatest of All Time, a phrase commonly used in American sports, made famous by Muhammad Ali, and in hip-hop, most notably, as the title of Queens native LL Cool J’s best-selling album. The title alludes to the African-American experience and political theater – common themes in Ward’s work.
The figure of the goat features prominently in Nari Ward: G.O.A.T., again as the artist’s articulation of social dynamics, conjuring the animal’s attributes and symbolic connotations, from an ambitious climber of great heights to an outcast. A flock of goats cast from lawn ornaments traverse the landscape, both in groups and as solitary individuals, manifesting the show’s title. The appropriation of the word goat, turning an insult into a moniker for excellence, demonstrates the power of wordplay, while the modifier again implies historical repetition. Scapegoat, a forty-foot long hobby toy further develops the goat metaphor and highlights another strand of the show: the satirization of virility, masculinity, and monument…”
Nari Ward’s exhibition is the first single presentation of an artist in the park’s 30-year history. Read the New Yorker feature about the exhibition.
“Born in Port Au Prince, Fritz St. Jean emerged as one of Haiti’s most illustrious self-taught artists. Initially, his style consisted of painting animal and jungle scenes on canvas. However, in 1980, St. Jean broke away from the staid pastoral themes to memorialize his hopes and dreams for Haiti through his paintings. Being widely viewed as socio-political commentaries on the dichotomous realities of Haitian life, St. Jean’s paintings transport the viewer to scenes of mysticism, idealism, and humanity all in one. He is noted as a master in color and detail as his works are continuously punctuated by the use of bold colors and fine lines. Often, his paintings celebrate Haiti’s religious culture in Voodoo and encapsulate its rich history. Paying tribute to a country that was once called La Perle des Antilles (The Pearl of Antilles due to its natural beauty and countenance), St. Jean’s paintings are artistic love notes to his homeland. Suffice it to say, Haiti continues to be the source of St. Jean’s inspiration.”
Happy Black Speculative Fiction Month. This month I will post reviews, lists of speculative works and some of my own work. By the way, please support my Go Fund Me as I raise money to get a new laptop and continue building my writing career. Today’s post is a list of speculative fiction works by authors from Queens!
*Ama Karikari Yawson‘s Sunne’s Gift
“Sunne is a magical being or “magbee”. God imbues Sunne with the power of the sun. Sunne’s straight haired siblings, Earthe, Watre, and Winde have unique powers of their own. When Sunne is teased and bullied by siblings because of Sunne’s natural, kinky, curly and spirally afro-textured hair, Sunne desperately tries to change. Join Sunne as Sunne learns that there is beauty and power in difference. Sunne’s Gift’s message of self-love and bullying prevention, coupled with its sci-fi imager, make it a hit for people of all ages.”
Last Friday, I went to Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning’s First Friday event where they showcase creative artists who participate in their one month residency program. Below are the three visual artists (Jason Lalor, Steven Sivells and Joyce Sanchez Espinoza) and works they showcased:
Multi-disciplinary artist Jason Lalor’s BlackBody Radiation
“In physics, a blackbody is an idealized body which absorbs the electromagnetic radiation it encounters and emits it as a spectrum of light; the body itself is revealed only through this spectrum. Similarly, the black and brown communities from which rap poetics emerged remain invisible to the pop culture it fuels. Nonetheless, the poetics – blackbody radiation – allow for the creation of new experiential worlds for its practitioners and audience.”
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.