Category Archives: The Artist’s Monolouge

The Music & Metaphysics of Sun Ra

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Sun Ra, the “godfather” of Afrofuturism in music and pioneer of the genre “free jazz,” is in a league of his own. His large body of creative work and personal style speaks directly to the souls of Black folks everywhere, seeking to use art as a platform for Black liberation. With the help of his Intergalactic Myth-Science Solar “Arkestra” (see: band), Sun Ra used free jazz, old Egyptian symbols, and “far out” ideologies concerning the state of Black identity in his 1974 film “Space Is The Place,” which is a total embodiment of what Afrofuturism is all about. Through his eccentric costumes, Afrocentric radical thought, and almost incompressible “transmolecular” sounds, Sun Ra takes his followers on a journey of “imagining possible futures through a Black cultural lens.” (Ytasha Womack)

In the film “Space Is The Place,” what first catches the eye of viewers is Sun Ra’s stand-out appearance. This alone speaks volumes for the energy this man brings through his artistry. By looking at him dressed as the Ancient Egyptian god Ra, you’re immediately taken back to a time when Black ruled the world. Sun Ra’s alternate universal appearance brings the past and possible futures to the present in an attempt to spark both memory and possibilities into the mind of Blacks here on Earth. The film begins with Sun Ra descending from space in spaceship which unifies with the yellow cape and Sun crown worn atop his head. At first glance this is both shocking and exciting for the viewer. His style, in my own words, can be best described as ancient Egyptian Pharaoh meets futuristic space alien. He is clearly not of this planet, as he won’t let us forget throughout the remainder of the film.

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            Sun Ra totally rejects Earth as his home. In an attempt to escape the rigidness of racist white supremacist societies and the many stereotypes forced upon him and his people, he takes the form of an intergalactic god. Bound by no definition or ideology that isn’t his own, he returns to Earth to square off with his arch nemesis “the overseer,” who is an amalgamation of Black archetypes, specifically the Black man as “pimp,” which were commonplace in most Blaxploitation films during the movie’s release. Sun Ra’s god portrayal was an alternative challenge to this archetype. He rejected racist white lens of his Black being and defined himself as “the altered destiny; the presence of the living myth.”

In addition to a bold, eccentric, style and an autonomous definition of self, Sun Ra’s main goal while on Earth was to free those “ghetto” Blacks who couldn’t escape the many labels they were caged by. He teleported into a recreational room filled with “good time” Black youth in an attempt to reach them by countering their accusations of him as “unreal” by confirming:

I am not real, just like you in this society. You don’t exist. If you did your people wouldn’t be seeing equal rights…You’re not real. If you were you would have some status among the nations of the world. So we’re both myth’s…I came from a dream that the Black man dreamed long ago. I’m actually a present sent to you by your ancestors.

In this message to his people, Sun Ra forces the youth to think critically about their place in society. He challenges their ease in the identities bestowed upon them by the white man and urges them to be the natural creators they were born to be. In a sense he is saying “you don’t matter here, on this planet, anyway, so why not be whatever you want to be.” This stream of afrofuturist thought is one of the most standout scenes in the film, for it is the crux of Sun Ra’s “job” there on Earth.

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            Sun Ra’s music, much like the language he uses throughout this film, is seemingly nonsensical. He continues the traditional use of coded language Blacks have used for centuries as a tool of communication and survival in order to confuse the listening ears of slavers and government agents looking to infiltrate any plans of liberation. One could describe the sounds of his free jazz genre as purely improvisation. He seems to make up notes and sounds and compilation of the two as he goes along to make the statement that as a free Black, not bound by Earth, he can do as he pleases and present himself in his own choice. Likening himself to the wind, viewers can better grasp the radical essence of Sun Ra’s artistry when he makes the powerful statement of “I, the wind, come and go as I choose, and none can stop me.”

With such powerful messages from both past and the future, one begs the question of where an artist like Sun Ra emerges from. From my viewpoint, he is afrofuturism in the flesh, in that he lives and breathes this “kingdom of darkness and Blackness [where] none can enter except those of the Black spirit.” A kingdom where “nothingness” and boundless sound waves reign supreme in a land, similar to Kemet, where Black is free to just be.

Watch the Brilliant film below to get a better understanding of the “other world” in which Sun Ra dwells:

Give me a Beat!: The Art of Beat Boxing

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Beatboxing: The Art of Urban Vocal Percussion. i.e. imitating drum sounds and beat patterns using your lips, tongue, mouth, throat, and voice.

 

 

The Art of Beat Boxing itself is a language spoken among the artists one might think of beat boxing as a type of Hip-Hop dialect. To the naked ear the rhythm and beats sound like mere patterns, but to an artist it speaks volumes. The beat itself becomes the message; in place of lyrics and bars there are methodical symphonies of vocal percussion. Artists such as Biz Markie and Slick Rick used the art of Beast Boxing as an Urban strategy to connect with the youth of the time. In times of sociopolitcal warfare Hip Hop and it’s various genres and forms has take on a movement of it’s own a tool of positive propaganda. Now in days beat boxing has taken to the streets of the underground back to where it originated. With the tainted system of the industry artists find themselves housed by the world of Spoken Word. In an age of technology and a digital generation one might ask is the art itself forgotten? As young people have we lost focus of what is most important to the art and activism of the Hip Hop movement? Activism to Hip Hop is what Language is to Beat Boxing. The language of beat boxing is not only heard, but it is felt. You can feel the vibration of the artist as it’s energy commands your body to sway and your head to nod. Beat boxing is a revolutionary form of language that should be brought back into the spotlight. In the words of Assata Shakur, 

“Hip Hop can be a very powerful weapon to help expand young people’s political and social consciousness. But just as with any weapon, if you don’t know how to use it, if you don’t know where to point it, or what you’re using it for, you can end up shooting yourself in the foot or killing your sisters or brothers. The government recognized immediately that Rap music has enormous revolutionary potential. Certain politicians got on the bandwagon to attack Rappers like Sister Soldier and NWA. You’ve got various police organizations across the country who have openly expressed their hostility towards Rap artists. For them, most Rappers fall in the category of potential criminals, cop killers, or subversives.”

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Think of the movie Men and Black II when Will Smith and Biz Markie are in the mail room having a conversation. Beat boxing is more than iust an art it is a part of our history and a method of self liberation and expression. What is understood sometimes does not need to be explained.

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Beat boxing revolutionized the Hip Hop movement  by creating a new language. There are no words that can explain what is being explained, but it is understood. With that being said, eye implore you as the reader to look back at the footprints left for us and reconnect to the heart of the movement. As young activists we have to continue the legacy that was left for us and rediscover self.

 

Prose Poetry.

It Occured to Me One Rainy Afternoon,

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Upon hearing the singing of a bird,Maybe the question is the purpose.
The questions that crowd my mind, begging for my attention.
Perhaps my purpose is not
in answering them,
but living them out.
Here Is one:
Why do birds
sing?
I have been struggling against this wind.

Perhaps, it is that
they never cease to sing.

Neither rain nor night nor snow
Can keep them silent.
It is a brave species that will stand against the Night and
sing a song.
Perhaps,
a bird knows there is glory in his singing.

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Glory starts small.
It grows, like an ocean wave that God braids. And we are all stringed along like hairs in his palm.  Glory starts small, pebble by pebble are the questions we are patient enough to live,
in a world that demands
answers.
We breathe the questions unanswered.  We wear a glory unseen. Then it will be us who sing the song. Like the bird who knows true glory, we will give true glory.

Case Study, part one: Beautiful People.

beautiful people,
    lining up streets
    taking out shrapnel 970143_267108810101875_850091147_n
    and dancing off beat
beautiful people,
    clothed with their scars
    building their bridges 
    with old prison bars
beautiful people,
    singing off key,
    ‘down with your monopoly
    on our standards of beauty!’
beautiful people,  
     opening doors, 
     walking through fires
     and coming out in four
beautiful people,
     some sages, 
     some babies,
     some meek old ladies
     
     some Martin’s
     some martyrs
     some 300 missing daughters

284357_4073283304831_726547536_n beautiful people,
     who grew amongst weeds,
     who yielded true courage
    the fruit of imperishable seeds 

-Naomie Jean Pierre 

Guest Submission: “Slipped Too Deep”

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This poem was inspired by the choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange. Like Shange’s, this poem expresses one of the many struggles and obstacles that African-American women may face throughout their lives.

 

Slipped Too Deep

I moaned for it.

Gripped your skin, and let you push it in-to me

Raw.

My hands shook when you gave it to me.

An orgasm tried to reverse the present but you shoved it back in with two fingers

I loved every bit of it.

And at the time I didn’t know the gift was from your ex,

She picked it up, gave it to you, and then went to the next.

You claimed she was the best.

And I strived to be better, strived to get wetter.

To do things to you she didn’t know existed, but that girl was gifted.

Talented at keeping secrets and giving diseases-

My heart was begging and pleading,

And neither of us could hear it.

Your eyes whispered I’m cheating on you while you were on top

And I encouraged the deceit, screaming don’t stop!

The subliminal message behind every “I love you” was,

“but I say that to all of y’all”

One confession made me feel so small. All of this anger inside of me is building a wall,

That I refuse to climb.

I just knew you were all mine.

My selfish ass never shared nothing,

But all this time you was fronting.

Smiled in my face

And let another bitch take my place.

It’s not right

Stabbed my heart, kissed my cheek, and then cleaned off the knife.

You fucked up my life!

And I cant forgive you.

Still cant believe all of the things you confessed to.

Images create themselves in my mind of what you did to her,

Got to get rid of ya’

Deleted text messages read “sorry I gave you Chlamydia

 

Stephanie Williams 

A Picture Says a Million Words…

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While browsing down my tumblr, I found a picture that raised my eyebrow, a picture that caused my mind to wonder what the creator of such a remarkable picture was trying to say. My mind interpreted the picture in many different ways.

When I first seen the picture I automatically thought the picture meant that African Americans nowadays are still enslaved.  The metal collar and chains that are placed upon us and keep us captives are now covered in “gold”. Gold could represent the flashy cars we buy to show our friends that we have a lot of money even though that money could be used to buy other essentials we are lacking at home. Gold could also be the racks of sneakers we have even though we are struggling to make ends meet.  

Although Caucasians do crave possessions it is as if take pride in ignorance. For example in the song Clique, Kanye West said “You know white people get money don’t spend it or maybe they get money, buy a business, I rather buy 80 gold chains and go ignorant I know Spike Lee gon kill me but let me finish blame it on the pigment, we living no limits them gold Master p ceilings was just a figment of our imagination, MTV cribs” We have to stop trying so hard to impress people we don’t even care about with materialistic things.

A friend of mine by the name of Brittany commented on the picture and said “it can be that for so many years, African Americans have been painted in black and white and portrayed in negative light as slaves that we are slowly beginning to paint our own picture. But as you see there is still some grey areas that keep us bound” I totally understand where she is coming from because for so long we let others tell our history.  We must take the initiative. We have to learn about the African Diaspora, we must arm our children with the weapons of war.  Remember we must fight for what we believe in.

P.S I would LOVE to know what this picture means to you so PLEASE comment let’s start a conversation

-SYG