Category Archives: Creative

Art Basel Miami Beach 2011

What a weekend I’ve had!!! So I spent the last two weekends enjoying the cool breeze and palm trees in Miami. I decided late Friday night that I would try my best to catch the first flight to check out Art Basel Miami Beach. Set back #1. The alarm was set but I didn’t hear it. So I jumped out of bed got ready, grabbed a few things and rushed to the airport. I checked in online, cleared security and boarded the plane just in time for take off. YES!!! I was on my way. My mother was anxious to attend the festivities with me so I just knew she would be at the airport waiting. Set back #2. FLAT TIRE! At that point I had no idea how long it would be until I met with my crew to hit the streets. Soooo what does a girl like me do? Find the nearest spot to get my toes beach ready. 😉 As soon as I’m finished I walk out of the airport my crew is there waiting for me. So I call out to the the Universe. “No more set backs. I only have 32 hours to get it in!”

Off to Native Films to shoot Merid Tafesse, a Contemporary Fine Artist visiting from Ethiopia. Tafesse was creating a huge masterpiece in the Wynwood Art Disctrict. Jimmy Malcolm accompanied him with soulful sounds on the piano. Mixed media on canvas and live music in the same space. I felt like I was watching the ultimate duet. Two major forms of art being created simultaneously in front of my eyes.

It was getting late I was hungry so I walked around the corned to a small Jamaican restaurant a new friend suggested. Of course the person who made the suggestion isn’t Jamaican nor would he understand why I never eat Jamaican food out but I thought I would give it a try. The rice and peas lacked some essential flavor but wasn’t too bad but, the brown stew and red velvet cake won me over. Nourishing dinner and a pleasant surprise. I love sweets.

I was exhausted but had to push through to check out more of the festivities. Since the Rubell Family Collection was near I tried to catch that and managed to see Art Africa, Moksha Art Fair and a few other places Saturday night. The next morning I was up early to prepare for the 2nd Annual Art Basel Panel Discussion on Contemporary African Diaspora Fine Art, which was held at the University of Miami, College of Arts and Science. The panel featured Tafesse, Howard Mills, Valerie Cooper, Dr. Meghoo, Armando Marino and Ludlow Bailey. The audience engaged the panel after initial presentations with some heated comments and questions pertaining to the advancement of African Diaspora Fine Art in America. Tafesse and Marino gave great insight on artist success over seas as well. The panel discussion was very informative and I look forward to the next one. I had a light lunch then went to the main event at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

WOW. At first I had no words. I saw the sea of people and thought I’d be so overwhelmed but I wasn’t. I couldn’t believe the collections. My time was limited so I saw a small portion of the galleries represented at the main event. Jack Shainman and Alexander Gray Associates were most memorable. Aside from the piece Tafesse completed the night before I must admit I fell in love with the Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare. I have no words to explain his genius. You just have to check it out for yourself. With just a few hours before my flight home I stopped by the Kehinde Wiley fish fry at the Shore Club. His work is simply amazing! I had a wonderful night. What a fabulous way to end a 32 hour trip. And I made it to the airport just in time to board the plane once again.

I can’t wait to attend Art Basel next year!

Feature Image: Artwork by Kehinde Wiley

Top Right Image: Artwork by Merid Tafesse

Bottom Right Image: Artwork by Yinka Shonibare

Black people read science fiction too.

I just found out that the author of my favorite book series has passed. It actually hurt my heart to hear this news. I felt like I knew her personally. L.A Banks wrote the twelve book series “Vampire Huntress.” She wrote in various genres, including African-American literature, romance, women’s fiction, crime suspense, dark fantasy/horror and non-fiction. Sadly she passed August 2, 2011 from late stage adrenal cancer. She was only 51.

I have always been open to reading any genre of books. I enjoy reading sci-fi, paranormal books. Yes, not many black people read sci-fi but I am a fan. So when I was introduced to this series by a friend I fell in love. I read these books like a hungry child devouring every word. I actually started reading the series twice and after each fix I was steadily hooked. I bought each one like it was crack and Barnes & Nobles was my supplier.

The series focuses on a young woman named Damali Richards. She is a spoken word artist but she is also The Neteru, a human who is born every thousand years to fight the Dark Realms. Plus she adorns a crown of locs on her head (maybe why I like it even more). She is gifted with powers that enable her to destroy the supernatural creatures and fight against all forces of evil but vampires are her biggest threat and enemy. L.A Banks once said “To me, the vampire represents a lot of what we see in society. They’re scarier because of that; because the vampire can be anybody. He just blends in and looks perfectly normal. Like your serial killers often look like normal people.”

Thus one of the main reasons that I love this series is because Banks made it relatable to modern life. It’s not just a typical book about killing vampires. She writes on the never-ending struggle between good and evil and how important love is. I found the series engaging and evolving. I will admit that the first book was a little slow but she got better with each book. The characters being described, as young, hip-hop, people-of-color, with culture and proud heritage were believable. They were a mix of musicians, veterans; Ivy League educated and drug dealers. I was glad to read a sci-fi book that had characters of different ethnicities African-American, Native American, Mexican, Laotians.

One theme throughout the story was always “Stay in the Light.” Stay in the light by staying positive, opening your third eye, acknowledging and using your talents and gifts for the betterment of yourself and others. L.A Banks writes of respecting and learning from your ancestors, using their wisdom in our lives. Her story line weaves a mix of conscious thought, holistic medicine and battle strategy. Characters practiced natural healing and laying on of hands while still using holy water grenades and glock nine millimeter, with hallowed earth-packed artillery. Like I said it is not a typical book about vampires.

This series is more than just sci-fi. It is romance, history, religious, spiritual, action packed. It is about a person’s internal struggle and of redemption. There is a passionate bond between Damali and Carlos Rivera, her lover and partner, that creates conflict and purpose in the story. Despite all their pain and faults, they truly believed in each other. That hope served as a beacon in uncertain times. By the end of the series I saw myself as Damali in love with my Carlos. I became a part of the book.

There are some other interesting observations from the book and the view that she writes from but I will reserve those opinions for myself and choose only to speak on the positive that I took away from the series but…

I know a lot of people can’t get into fiction much less science-fiction but reading different genres of creativity inspires my own. My imagination is not one dimensional and sci-fi opens up another side to that imagination. I encourage you to branch out and read outside of your normal genres. Try some sci-fi. Try fiction. Read between the lines you will be surprised at how it may relate to you and your life. Allow your imagination to wander and live out in another world.

Natural since creation… No chemicals here…

The other day a young man approached me about an idea he had for a documentary about women and the journey they take to become natural. He asked about my transition to locks and how many years I have been growing them.  I was perplexed and my face let him know exactly what I was thinking.  Hiding my true feelings has always been difficult because my face usually tells on me.  So to clarify I said, “I’ve always been natural. I don’t know anything else”  and he understood.  I don’t know anything about the transition or the obstacles people go through to embrace their natural crown.  Thank God my parents had enough sense not to be like the others who put that creamy crack or any other chemicals in my hair.  No offense to those who did. I’d like to think all of our parents did what they thought was best for us.  Even my grandparents on both sides were pro natural.  In fact, I use all natural products and am partial to Jahbulani’s Hair Care products which can be ordered online at http://www.jahbulaniproducts.com/index.html  .

I grew up in a house where my parents and all 9 of my siblings had locks.  All family members weren’t fond of locks but they didn’t encourage me to cut my hair and have it processed like the rest of the world. A few months ago I participated in a video shoot which featured women with natural hair.  I was so shocked to hear the stories about their journey to become natural. I seriously can’t even remember seeing a comb in my house as a child.  Some of these beautiful women had horrible experiences that led them to cut the chemicals and rock a fro, locks, braids or press.  The conversations we had that day were random but eye opening.  Some were teased because of their natural hair.  Others hated having their hair done because it was difficult to manage.  Most just wanted a perm to look “pretty” according the society standards at the time. I mean the list went of reasons went on and on.  For the first time in my life I thought about what it would have been like if my parents had taken me through the same process.

When I was growing up I thought my hair was normal.  It looked just like my brothers, sisters and parents.  When I went to school at P.S. 36 on Morningside Drive in New York I don’t recall anyone teasing me because of my hairstyle.  But when I moved to Florida I was teased all of the time!  No one else looked like me.  People would drive by our house and stop in front of the yard and stare.  My classmates would call me names like Madusa, snake lady and thought I was dirty.  They didn’t know that my mother was a clean freak and assumed that I didn’t groom my locks.  My mother would not have tolerated anything other than clean hair.  While at school I often had to defend my younger brothers who also had long locks were harassed.

My 9 year old nephew is currently enrolled in public school in Florida and he wears his locks proudly not only because his hair looks like his aunts, uncles, cousins and parents, but also because his classmates, teachers and other people in the professional world wear them as well.  I wore my locks in a turban when I was his age.  Today he sees his mother, aunts and other women sport all kinds of hairstyles just like the other women without locks.  He has watched us regularly groom and style our locks. We have up do’s, coils, twists, braids, curls, you name it. I style his hair every time I see him.  In college my locks grew so long they were past my knees.  But it was so normal for me and my nephew as well.  I NEVER saw these things as a child when I was his age excluding a few relatives who had long locks.  I am glad to share these experiences with my nephew.   My mother even wrote a children’s book entitled, “I Love Locks” for my nephew and other children so they would know how different locks may look.

Back to the young man with the idea for the documentary… I didn’t give him all of this information.  I’m just sharing a piece of my hair journey with you.  Let’s continue to make our children comfortable in their skin so they are proud of what they were naturally given.  I love my locks and can only imagine being natural.

This video was directed by Shannon McCollum, Director of Photography and editor, Ari J Johnson, Artistic Director Jamila Crawford for Dead Prez’s latest song “Beauty Within”.  The official video debuted at the 15 project.  The show was hosted by an amazing fine artist Fahamu Pecou and the featured guests were Lil John Roberts (Master Drummer), Stic.Man (Dead Prez), Angie Stone (Singer/Songwriter-Musician) and Shannon McCollum (Photographer).   I know what you are thinking.  What a line up! Backstage and the green room was just as exciting as behind the scenes on this video shoot. If you missed this edition of the 15 Project no worries. Subscribe to our blog so you can see the posting for the next one.  Now watch this phenomenal production in celebration of natural beauty.

I embrace my natural, do you?

*Thanks to Carlos Bell and Yemi Toure for capturing the pictures above.

Afro Punk Rocks!!!

Afro Punk in the simplest terms is a merge between people of African descent and punk, rock, or other alternative forms of music.  On the global scene, “black music” consists of soulful melodies, wicked bass rifts, and is modular or minor based in structure.  As people of color we are expected to listen to music from Gil Gelberto, Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin, and James Brown, to Mos Def and Mary J Blige.  Now they are all amazing in their own right but AfroPunk is a true work of art as well.  The fusion of so many genres and sounds is a challenging yet exciting task for the talented musicians who choose to delve into the culture.  Many people don’t realize how many similarities there are between these styles of music.  In 1977, Bad Brains, one of the most popular bands in the Afro-meets-punk-meets-Rock genre, was formed in Washington, D.C.  They also had a heavy reggae influence in their music.

Today my favorite AfroPunk band has to be Game Rebellion. Check out their latest video http://vimeo.com/22968840  “Blood on the Dancefloor”, produced by Royal Ras Productions and Artful Dodger. They are all such incredible people.  I saw them live for the first time at AFROPUNK ’10 NYC at the  Comodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, NY.  The band was too live for the stage. Netic climbed on top of vans. Emi killed the keys, and as a pianist myself I couldn’t help but appreciate his raw talent. Yohimbe hypnotized members of the audience with his outrageous guitar sounds. I mean the entire band was just WICKED.  This of course was my first experience in a mosh pit.  Which lasted only a few seconds because I just don’t like the concept of someone knocking their body into mine in the middle of a concert. Then I saw The Bots. http://thebotsband.com/media/I_Like_Your_Style.html  The most adorable duo you’ll ever hear. 14 and 17 year old brothers who know how to rock the stage and maintain an audience. Bad Brains was there too and dominated the end of the show.  I seriously had never seen anything like it before and hope to attend another AfroPunk or similar festival in the future.

From my experience the shows are very energetic, loud, aggressive, and if you know what to listen for, you can hear the heavy percussion that is fused with an African sound… So it’s summer time again and I hope to catch Game Rebellion, Black Vampires or The Bots sometime soon.

Poetic Inspiration-Celebrating Spoken Word Artists.

Poetry.. my dreams and visions, my war cry of rebellion, loving santuary and knowledge seeking truth. I have had a long standing relationship with poetry from when I first read “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein and “A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes when I was 9. To my delight the media has showcased spoken word poetry through out with the 1975 broadway play  ” For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf”, 1997 movie “Love Jones”, 2002, HBO 6 season, Def Jam Poetry and 2008 “Brave New Voices” for teenage poets. April is National Poetry Month so Im sharing a few of my favorite poets that I love and admire. These are just a few Revolutionary Poets! Support Poetry!

1. Sunni Patterson– Her spirit reached out and healed me…  “More than a poet, more than a singer, more than an emcee–it’s not just what she says, it’s how she says it.  Emerging from the musical womb that is New Orleans, artist and visionary Sunni Patterson combines the heritage and tradition of her Native town with an enlightened modern world view to create music and poetry that is timeless in its groove.”

Website for more information www.sunnipatterson.com/

2. Warasan ShireSpeaks to my soul thee most!… “Warsan Shire is a Kenyan born Somali poet and writer who is based in London. Born in 1988, she is an artistic activist who has read her work all over the world, more recently South Africa, Italy and Germany. Her poetry has been translated into Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. She believes in healing through narrative and art. She works with refugee communities in the UK through poetry workshops to document their stories of journey and trauma.”

Poem Six-Haiku

In prepartaion for War

to my daughter i
will say, when the men come, set
yourself on fire.

Hair

like many of the women back home
you have hair that reaches your waist
or the ground if you are bent over a chair
or the dimples of his back
if you are over his shoulder.

like many of the men you have loved
he was obsessed with your hair,
once even wrapped it around
his arm like rope, another time enjoyed
mouthfuls of it while you made love.

Check out her blog for more poems: http://www.warsanshire.blogspot.com/

3. Amir Sulaiman– Intense, powerful….  “Deep within Rochester New York, a poet writes the words his heart can no longer restrain. From the silent cries of the battered wife to the painful resignation of the orphaned child in Malawi, Amir Sulaiman intensely radiates the stories of life. The ailments of humanity are channeled through him into the eyes, ears, and hearts of the listeners.”

Danger

I am not angry, I am anger
I am abominable, stress, Eliotic relentless
I’m a death sentence
For the beast and his henchmen
Politicians and big businessmen
I’m a teenage Palestinian
Opening fire at an Israeli checkpoint, point blank, check-mate, now what?!
I’m a rape victim with a gun cocked to his cock, cock BANG! Bangkok! Now what?!…..

For rest of this poem check out his website  http://amirsulaiman.com/

4. Staceyann Chin– Fell in love with her story and presence…  “A resident of New York City and a Jamaican National, she has been an “out poet and political activist” since 1998. From the rousing cheers of the Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe to one-woman shows Off- Broadway to poetry workshops in Denmark and London to co-writer and performer in the Tony nominated, Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway.”

For more information http://www.staceyannchin.com/v2/index.html

5.Gil Scott-HeronOne of the orginal revolutionary poets….”Gil Scott-Heron (born April 1, 1949) is an American poet, musician, and author known primarily for his late 1960s and early 1970s work as a spoken word soul performer and his collaborative work with musician Brian Jackson. Albums, most notably Pieces of a Man and Winter in America in the early 1970s, influenced and helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul. Scott-Heron’s recording work is often associated with black militant activism.”

Website http://gilscottheron.net/

Influenced poet Sara Jones-Your Revolution

Writing saved my life…

I am a thought sought out by curious minds“…my favorite quote I wrote in 12th grade creative writing class. I always felt like I was born a writer, a poet but until recently I realized my passion and gift started somewhere. I have had this partial memory of being 8 years old alongside my older sister and being introduced to poetry. We were taken out of class to learn about rhyming and haikus not just for poetry sake but because it was counseling. I know now it was grief counseling through a creative outlet to deal with the death of my older brother. I suppressed the counseling part and held on to the poetry. But I was told to remember the good things about him and write that. So I wrote and haven’t stopped since.  I realized that we will never know the complete plans of God and all that he has in store for us and why things happen. I acknowledge that God gave me poetry, adjectives, verbs, prose and monologue, so I could cope. God saw my pain, my loss and gave me new life by breathing creativity into my heart.  Writing became my refuge, my world I lived in. I mourned through my paper and pen and was comforted with my words. I wrote poems, simple sentences and random thoughts. I was told to be a good writer you have to read and write a lot. I read sci-fiction, murder mystery, non-fiction, even trashy romance novels. In middle school I once read a book about how to skin animals.  Clearly I just wanted to read anything.

Growing up and making friends I rarely came across men that enjoyed reading as much as I did. And now I feel that people barely read or even write. Reading helps in mental development and is an activity that involves greater levels of concentration and adds to ones conversational skills.   We write Facebook statutes and tweets. We can’t spell if it wasn’t for spellcheck and I am guilty of depending on that too much myself. In college no one wants to read their class books much less a recreational book. Instead of reading a book people read worldstarhiphop.com. The art of writing letters has even died. I can just expect a bill in the mail. I love to feel a pen to paper versus fingers to keys. I remember the Harlem Renaissance and the passion that was once felt for literature. African-American writers living in Paris and creating rhythm and beats to words are the inspirations that I cling to. The works of Sonia Sanchez, Claude McKay, Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Waldo Ellison, Langston Hughes and many others have fueled my passions and desire for knowledge.

It has famously been said “The best way to hide something from a black man is to put it in a book.” Maybe this quote makes sense to why the black men have the lowest high school graduation rate of any other group and their college enrollment is so low. I find it crazy how slaves risked beatings and death to learn to read and write and now you would have to beat someone to make them read and write. I choose to honor the memory of my brother and my ancestors by writing and reading. I use my words for positive upliftment and read to gain insight and education so that I may never be a slave to anyone nor dead to the world.

My Daily AfroBeat Inspiration

Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the “James Brown” of Nigeria and father of Afrobeat has been sampled by everyone from Nas, Fatboy Slim, Cannibus, The Roots and Mos Def to name a few. So this morning as I’m going through my daily routine searching the iTunes library and google for new musical inspiration, I play some Fela, Janelle Monae, Mulatu Astatke, Tony Allen and Hector Lavoe. What a combination, right?!?!
Check out the link I found to a mixtape released by MonsterMondays called Swizz Beatz vs Fela Kuti Part 1. http://www.soulculture.co.uk/blogs/music-blog/newmusic/swizz-beatz-vs-fela-kuti-pt-1-monstermondays-free-dl/

I’m feeling great! These sounds are all so different yet familiar. I grew up on this music. Records, cassettes or CD’s playing in our home.  In my West African dance classes.  By the way, I prefer Senegalese… it gets my juices flowing. Lol. At my father’s gigs or in his studio. Concerts with my mother.  My brothers’ jam sessions and my sisters and I acting like the I-Threes.  As I’m listening I visualize videos I’ve seen and the play Fela! on Broadway, which I saw summer of 2010. A wonderful show produced by Jay-Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Inspired by his native African music along with sounds from around the globe, Fela is by far one of my favorite composers of all times.  In my humble opinion, his background singers are almost never in tune but they have a place and fit perfectly in the ensemble.  The combination of their voices which create beautiful harmonies along with the electrifying dancers is just amazing.  Simply dynamic horns and percussion section maintain the beat. West African beat meets jazz, funk, soul, and latin groove. So I’m rocking to Gentleman, Water No Get Enemy, No Agreement and Shakara.

I’m feeling great and I’m excited about what today will bring!

Everybody say Yeah! Yeah!