A few months back, I wrote about a Pennsylvania raised naysayer living in BK who couldn’t catch light spilling into his eyes, thus was his blinding hatred for all things and music Bay Area. This dude, remember?
Okay. Maybe I put twos on tens. Doing too much. Craig Sanders is a hater. Let us be clear. But he’s also ridiculously smart, and gave way on the Oakland music given some good, thoughtful, prodding. He’s a captivating artist in his own right and today, February 23rd, is his birthday. So, after one slightly off key, arhythmic serenade in the manner of Stevie Wonder for Dr. King… take a look at the work he makes:
1) For good measure and obvious reasons.
2) Because graphic design is not dead.
3) Because when I met Craig he told me he finger painted, and I ain’t believe him, and later he dabbled this out, fingerprinting on his iPad. And if the future is about black female form, appreciated and digitized, I’m bout it.
4) Because something is to be said for process.
5) Because I have a soft spot for black men, surrounded by their own art, who still feel the need to mug to the camera.
6) Because I want to demonstrate some parallels.
And if I must compare Craig to something/someone other than a summer’s day? S’gotta be Allan Freelon. Philly representer, like your boy Craig. Philadelphia Museum School of International Art class of 1916. Known best for his impressionist work. Hated on by the Harlem Renaissance types for not being militant enough. Staunch in his stance that he was artist first, and against strict designations of what art “should” be/do as a Negro practitioner.
I draw some lines between his work and Sanders’ because of use of color, of sketch, of simple form, and because he, too, seems to keep his grill real hard in every photo I can find.
I’ma say this once, and one time only. Props to Philly. And surrounding suburbs. And its art. And to Craig. And to haterism. And futurism. And lineage. And fingerpainting. And sketching. And to turning unreasonably old and still attacking the canvas with vigor and zeal.
oh, and you should probably follow Sanders’ tumblr at lasttrainleaving.tumblr.com.
Jamilah King, you write meaningful, necessary things.
I mean, no, seriously, Jamilah, you write when, how and about the things that most urgently need writing. In a time and space where a premium is put on textual lies, sensationalist journalism, and half-hearted “truthy” above the fold dreck. I like when I stumble upon an article where the headline is something I hadn’t considered and the by line is yours. It’s the best part of my internet life.
Okay, fine, part of the best part of my internet life is Words With Friends and FB Scrabble. And looking at things my mom could make that people are getting paid for on Etsy.com. And Chukwudi Hodge’s fb status updates. And following Roger Ebert on twitter. Ebert tweets good. But you write so, so well, Jamilah King.
And the reason I’m writing about you (in 2nd person)(and highly parenthetically) on this here Black Future Blog is that you continue to do what so much of the world has abandoned — telling the truth in a way that requires your audience to be literate, to read other things when they’re not reading you, to form an opinion as they draw from your text, and ultimately, to respond.
Like this latest piece of yours:
Part of me hopes that all of my readers have stopped reading my non-fact-checked op-ed machinations and just moved on over to the Colorlines site. Hmm, great read by Jamilah King, I wonder what else she’s written and then they just fall down the rabbit hole of your brilliance. The other part of me hopes that you’re writing something new. So I can read it.
It’s dope that you’re from SF and LA, kinda, too. It’s ill that you went to school away then came back to The Bay Area, then on to Brooklyn which is sorta like the ex-pat home of all things black, bay and intellectual.
You know who you make me think of, Jamilah King (I only seem to be able to call you by your full government)? You make me think of Ida Bell Wells Barnett. There’s a hellofa full name for you. You know why you remind me of her? Ms. Ida B: Suffragist, writer, rhetoricist, lecturer.
She was born just after “emancipation”, lived through the 20’s, made it her mission to speak candidly, honestly and wholly about lynchings in a time when it was still uncomfortable for a woman to write, unlawful in some states for black folks to write. She jeopardized her life, consistently, in pursuit of saving others. And now high schools are named after her, and stamps minted in her honor. Though few can tell you what she was really ‘bout. How’s that for journalistic irony? Tragedy.
But, yo, Jamilah! You remind me of her because you tell the truth. As if there is no other way to be in the world other than saying true things, as soon as you know them to be honest. It is my distinct and utter prayer that the future is built around publications like Colorlines and writers like you. Those of you who chronicle, herald, star the things that should be asterisked, make the idea of seeking news in the future bearable. Thank you for bringing us into your fold, even as it pixelates across a Chrome browser.
So, yeah. I took the weekend off. For lots of reasons. None of which I’m willing to share. I promise that I’ll build in those missed days in the coming week or so. If you’re a stickler for dates, come back and see what I slide in for the 17-20th. In the meanwhile. Black Future returns.
My favorite emcee is named Nikki. You know her? She rocks that blue hair sometimes, or the sandy-blonde joint? She got a couple well known bars about her ego? Sports the oversized jackets and skinny ties. Got a tat up her forearm. It says Thug Life.
Nikki Giovanni has long been my favorite master of ceremonies. For the time she did the impossible memorial at Virginia Tech, for her waxing on NASA’s space program, for her poem for Pac on the day he was killed — still the truest, most grounded writing since his passing, in my opinion. While the most easily digested of her poems make their way into BHM events and oratorical fests the world ‘round, the least quoted opuses do the most visceral damage. She’s an undisputed, real life, speaker of real, writer of true. And she does it while effortlessly redefining what it means to be many of the things I am: poet, teacher, scholar, black, female identified, eulogist, thinker and talker-of-shit.
I think what scares many of us, and why Black History Month can become so didactic and repetitive, is that we fear legacies lost. In a gem like Nikki we also see a void that could be left in her absence. It changes our perspective on the living giants — often forcing them to occupy (regular old occupy) spaces not of their choosing — the Sanchezes, Giovannis and Davises of the world get requests to do their old poems, old poems, old speeches — and also are expected to behave in the ways they did in their 20s.
But Ms. Giovanni, despite all that, writes new poems for new occasions — grows comfortable in her aging, but not complacent or complicit.
And so, when I think about folks who might move in that same path, I can’t help but to think about (in my rarely humble opinion) the realest futurist in the game, Sunni Patterson. Damn. Sunni. What can I say about Sunni? She channels and performs like this:
No doubt, in 20 years, Sunni’ll be offered a distinguished professorship somewheres. She’ll likely forgo the arm patches, have a grand baby of some sort in tow, be effortlessly woman, and fiercely spirit. And still teaching me thangs, as I watch on the periphery. Or more likely, she’ll set her own course (pun intended), sidestep the limitations her adoring public will attempt to throw on her, and write the words we most need to hear.
Here’s to legacy, affirmation, change, and for the smartest women of us, picking up the mantle.
So, I did those two posts on the subject above, back to back.
And then a bunch of folks, in turn, put me on to other iterations of mashups, hostile takeovers and covers.
It’s not like we get tired of hearing the beat or anything, right? It’s not like there could possibly be another way by which we could investigate our own proximity and relationship to The Atlantic Ocean, and what lies on the other side of it, right? We fully understand that the West-Carter iteration of Paris is fantasy, and does not accurately discuss the spoils of international pillaging, colonialism and murder housed in Le Louvre, alone.
It’s a song. The song works. I like it. I’m clearly fascinated by it. And it’s historical and futuristic implications. I also like thinking of what others have thought of Paris, in the past — a place where declarations of honesty could be made. Where a black man could draw attention to himself by reciting something eloquently. Where an emcee of the day could jeopardize his life and livelihood and stand trial in the US as a result.
For your viewing pleasure, some more NGAS in Paris.
Shout out to my naka in Paris, Aja Monet for sending this one:
For your reading enlightenment, an excerpt of Paul Robeson’s testimony before The House Committee on Un-American Affairs, June 1956. Just before they took his passport and revoked his liberty to travel. (Majority) Whip so cold…
Mr. ARENS: Did you make a trip to Europe in 1949 and to the Soviet Union?
Mr. ROBESON: Yes, I made a trip. To England. And I sang.
Mr. ARENS: Where did you go?
Mr. ROBESON: I went first to England, where I was with the Philadelphia Orchestra, one of two American groups which was invited to England. I did a long concert tour in England and Denmark and Sweden, and I also sang for the Soviet people, one of the finest musical audiences in the world. Will you read what the Porgy and Bess people said? They never heard such applause in their lives. One of the most musical peoples in the world, and the great composers and great musicians, very cultured people, and Tolstoy, and—
THE CHAIRMAN: We know all of that.
Mr. ROBESON: They have helped our culture and we can learn a lot.
Mr. ARENS: Did you go to Paris on that trip?
Mr. ROBESON: I went to Paris.
Mr. ARENS: And while you were in Paris, did you tell an audience there that the American Negro would never go to war against the Soviet government?
Mr. ROBESON: May I say that is slightly out of context? May I explain to you what I did say? I remember the speech very well, and the night before, in London, and do not take the newspaper, take me: I made the speech, gentlemen, Mr. So-and-So. It happened that the night before, in London, before I went to Paris … and will you please listen?
Mr. ARENS: We are listening.
Mr. ROBESON: Two thousand students from various parts of the colonial world, students who since then have become very important in their governments, in places like Indonesia and India, and in many parts of Africa, two thousand students asked me and Mr. [Dr. Y. M.] Dadoo, a leader of the Indian people in South Africa, when we addressed this conference, and remember I was speaking to a peace conference, they asked me and Mr. Dadoo to say there that they were struggling for peace, that they did not want war against anybody. Two thousand students who came from populations that would range to six or seven hundred million people.
Mr. KEARNEY: Do you know anybody who wants war?
Mr. ROBESON: They asked me to say in their name that they did not want war. That is what I said. No part of my speech made in Paris says fifteen million American Negroes would do anything. I said it was my feeling that the American people would struggle for peace, and that has since been underscored by the President of these United States. Now, in passing, I said—
Mr. KEARNEY: Do you know of any people who want war?
Mr. ROBESON: Listen to me. I said it was unthinkable to me that any people would take up arms, in the name of an Eastland, to go against anybody. Gentlemen, I still say that. This United States Government should go down to Mississippi and protect my people. That is what should happen.
My blog ate my homework. And other excuses. I’m behind on this here site, and playing quick catch up. Since the last post was female-identified, and since I’m penning this one on its heels, I think it’s only right for me to give the gentlemen a little something. And something lighter, too.
Now, we play with the evolving ideas of trouble men. We start with a live performance of Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man, and attempt to track its influence on the contemporary. If Gaye were alive at this moment, what would he look like? What would he be doing? Who has inherited his practice, if anyone? And how? Surely, those who follow in Gaye’s footsteps do precarious feats of high flying performance. Like the men for whom the song is named in the first place, electrical trouble (shooting) men — first responders on the scene when the power’s out. Or perhaps the song is made for the title character of the soundtrack for which this song was written, a blaxploitation film called, you guessed it, Trouble Man. Either way, today’s video selection is a smattering of charged, potent energy — and musical acumen that’s far beyond average. The kind that puts you back together when you come apart.
Once upon a poetry event, just before Saul Williams covered a Rakim song, he said, I’m not going to talk about Hip Hop, although I’d like to, instead, I’m going to toy around with evolving ideas.
That practice informs my bloggery today.
I don’t want to write anything lengthy. Days 1-14 of BFM show I can write long. I want simply to say that I am interested in the way black women, the world ‘round, relate to water. I have ideas about the way singing about and talking about water reinforce old rituals and create new ones. I hypothesize that our traumas relating to water last long and cut deep — and are counterbalanced only by the ways we celebrate God at the water, too. And by the ways we’re beginning to re-imagine our future based on our positions to rain, cloud, ocean, river and (well) —well.
I’m attempting to discuss influence, tradition, trajectory and possibility, without speaking a sound. Instead, imagining myself as part of this continuum: violated, discontented, purged, reflective, and moving forward — as the women in these videos, and the water near us all.
A good deal of good folks transitioned to the other since this time last year.
In my circle alone we’ve lost sisters, writing partners, best friends, children, mentors, and fathers. The time between this February and last have taken its toll on me. I don’t think my grieving and coping mechanisms are all that evolved. I make art to deal. I’m dealing.
There have also been a number of highly celebrated people who have transcended. They moved from this life to the next challenge under the watchful eyes of millions. I don’t think my grieving and coping mechanisms are all that evolved. I make art to deal. I’m dealing.
Today, as many turn to thoughts of love, I offer a couple hand made Valentines for you to consider. (I know some of you ain’t into the Hallmark aspect — but, uh, Hallmark had no part in these. — Some of you also have qualms with St. Valentine, himself — but, uh, Vatican notwithstanding, and like the great sage once said — everyday the 14th.)
I tried to find images of these folks before we knew who they’d become — as a sign that the future is neither guaranteed nor written.
Hope you download, print and paste to the desk(top) of the cute girl sitting next to you. Or cute dude. Whatever you like.
When I feel like existing on the short-sighted side of history, I joke that I was born 40 years too late. As much as I’m a Hip-Hop head, by virtue of timing, place and circumstance — I feel like I’da been a better fit as a twenty-something in the late 50s, early 60s. I picture, me, front row, pining after Frankie Lymon. Me, front row, watching Fingertips for the first time by Little Stevie Wonder. Me, front row, when Bob and The Wailers were still a doo-wop group. Funny, how in my imagination, I’m lucky enough to be front row in every scenario — and my 60’s machinations have little to do with bucking the social order of the day. Nope. In my head, it’s me, front row center, 1970s, getting Sly with his family Stone.
What can I say? I’m a Soul soul with a Funk heart. I’m an impossible (all day) sucker for a love song with live instrumentation, preferably with a horn section. Every December, my friends put together a list of the best emcees of the year, and invariably, I wind up with either Nina Simone or Marvin Gaye on my list. Shoot, if an all synth, auto tune album where every hook is sung is a Hip Hop album, then “Trouble Man” is certainly hot fire, Dylan style.
That’s probably why I respond so vehemently to Chris Turner’s sound. Yes, yes, haters, he’s from Oakland, too. But he lives in NY and only recently performed his first set in Oakland at Vitus. When I saw him perform I was instantly:
a) pissed that I hadn’t heard of him sooner.
b) jealous that the East Coast gets to count him as a resident.
c) moved by the quality of his voice.
d) transported to the premium seats of my minds wanderings.
I’m still new to his sound, perusing his Youtube videos like a 12 year old girl, but I’ve found a couple of gems that keep me coming back.
Here’s Chris doing a cover of a song by Sly Stone and ‘em:
This one gives you a better sense of his personality, stage charisma, songwriting sensibilities and countenance.
Like I wrote when I was featuring Alice Smith, I’m wary of 1:1 musical comparisons, especially to the greats — but if I’m lying, I’m flying. Check this video of a young Al Green doing “Sha-la-la” on Soul Train. I’ll let the audio/visual do the work for me. Sort of uncanny, right?
Thickwit looks forward to future efforts by Chris Turner, and reflects on the base (line) established by The Reverend Al Green.