I’m a big fan of making art for a purpose and the legendary Gil Scott Heron is one of the most passionate writers, songwriters and musicians that has been produced in Amerikkka. Gil Scott Heron is known as a movement griot as well as one of the godfathers of rap music. "Revolution is change, and change is inevitable, so you might as well direct it as opposed to just going through it," he advises.
Learning that you have breast cancer can be one of the most shocking and life altering moments of your entire life. The initial diagnosis can bring on feelings of not only worry, but life’s fragility. The idea of time being precious no longer seems like something that you just say in passing when talking to friends. Your time really does become precious and your sense of purpose kicks into overdrive.
New Orleans – “A school should not feel like a prison. A school should feel positive, safe and welcoming. A school should feel like a second home. As I walk through the doors of my school, I want to be treated with dignity.” These are the words of Vernard Carter, a rising 10th grade Rethinker at a well-attended press conference held July 23, 2009.
Ayo the Wordslanger is one of the most intense poets that I have ever met in Oakland. She is not just somebody who can rhyme – she can do that. She is somebody with the life experiences to back up her lyrical passion. She doesn’t do cafe poetry; she does street poetry for the masses. There’s nothing Afro-bourgeois about her lyrical content; it’s straight hood. Check her out in her own words.
Islam is a very prominent faith in the Black communities of Amerikkka, and during Ramadan the SF Bay View thinks that it is important for us to have the best possible understanding of the different cultures among us so that organizing can be facilitated against a common foe, the organized bodies that are oppressing us.
This month Muslims around the world are observing Ramadan, which is compared in the Black revolutionary tradition to how Black August is celebrated in the prisons, where people fast during the day, exercise more, study more and recommit themselves to their belief system. Under this section I am submitting two stories that look at the faith of young Black Orthodox Muslims in the Bay Area, one from a male perspective and one from a female perspective.
Sister Linda Johnson has been a legendary educator in East Oakland since the ‘80s. At her school which is known as Umoja House, she has taught generations of students who have grown up to be productive members of their communities. As a community, we must make it a high priority to give our children the best education possible so that they can come back and help solve some of the problems that we have as a people.
From the age a child enters school until he leaves school, his two most paramount and time-consuming “worlds” are those of home and school. As a child ages, he will spend more time in his academic world than he will in his home world. It is crucial that a positive relationship exists between the two worlds, as they should not operate in a void, one separate from the other.
Independent gangsta stories: an interview wit’ Oakland street lit author and publisher Renay Jackson
Renay Jackson is the literary son of the timeless writers who were the first popular street-lit legends, Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim. Renay Jackson’s stories of ghetto street life are based right here in the Bay Area’s Black experience. This extremely talented author is also a publisher of six titles who teaches people in Oakland about self-publishing in workshops at libraries in Oakland throughout the year. The home of independent rap music is also quickly becoming the home of self-published lit.
Next month the most important item on my agenda is Maafa Commemoration Month to reflect on the legacy of slavery and how everyone benefited from this human rights travesty except those who did the work. We began Aug. 30 with a successful Maafa 2009: Hurricane Katrina Fundraiser and Reportback, thanks to all the poets and the visual artists who donated art for the silent auction and of course to Tess and Yeme, the proprietors of Shashamane Bar and Grill.
Recently, the Bay View newspaper won the SF Bay Guardian’s 2009 Best of the Bay Award for best local newspaper because we are a “fight-back” publication. While at the party, I ran into my media-making buddies from Distortion 2 Static, a local Hip Hop TV show, who had also won a 2009 Best of the Bay Award, theirs for best local TV show, and I thought about the fact that I had never written anything to expose our readers to what they do.
AIDS is an epidemic that we hardly talk about in the Black community, and that is a dangerous thing when we are dropping like flies from it all over the world. To all of the readers, I would say adults but adults aren't the only ones having sex, think about the last time that you had unprotected sex with someone. BAM! You could have have contracted HIV that fast. If that would have happened, you traded in your health and life for an hour of fun? How intelligent is that? And be clear although I'm writing this for the readers, I am at the same time talking to myself so I am not coming from no holier-than thou pulpit.
Black August begins with a campaign for the acquittal of Francisco Torres, the only member of the San Francisco 8 still charged. Go to www.freethesf8.org for messages to phone or fax to Attorney General Jerry Brown, urging him to drop the charges. Cisco’s hearing is Aug. 10 if the charges aren’t dropped.
By far one of the most revolutionary cultural groups to put words to music in the United States is the Last Poets. Many, including myself, trace the roots of rap music to the spoken word, lyrics and speeches of the Last Poets, Gil Scott Heron and the current political prisoner Imam Jamil Al-Amin, otherwise known as H. Rap Brown.
Drama has been a valuable art form to the Black experience in Amerikkka since before slavery. It was one of the ways that we maintained our history, although huge segments of the population couldn’t read or aren’t reading. I have only been to a few theatrical plays, but I love cinema, with some of the best dramatized movies to me being “dead presidents,” “Brown Sugar” and “Juice.”
DJ Fresh is a legend in the arena of DJing around the world but he is also known for his contributions of putting out lesser known artists right here in the Bay Area. DJ Fresh is a dude who you may catch hanging out with Bicasso of Living Legends fame one day, and the next day he might be in the studio wit’ young hood mascots like Yung Moses, DLO or Sleepy. You can’t put Fresh in the box of being backpacker or gangsta; he’s just hip hop.
For those who feel his music was mere bubblegum pop, and thus devoid of serious social commentary, check out one of his post “Thriller” songs, “They Don’t Care About Us.” Filmed in what appears to be a Brazilian favela, surrounded by thousands of dark skinned boys and girls, many drumming to the beat, the song is an anthem of how the rich world treats the poor of the world.
Required reading for Americans pre-fireworks and festivities should be an important speech given by abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass, who, in “What to the American Slave is Your Fourth of July?” questions this holiday which took place while citizens were denied their right to justice, freedom and equality. At the Oakland Public Conservatory, Michael Lange and youth wordsmiths Ayinde Webb, the drummer in the Frederick Douglass Youth Ensemble, and Jamani Williams will read excerpts.
On other coasts, you could just put on a red, black and green bandana or arm band and be talking to all white people but call your yourself a Black conscious or political rapper. Conscious of what I don't know, but the Jacka, on his new album "Tear Gas," shares the knowledge that he has with what revolutionary theoretician Frantz Fanon called "The Wretched of the Earth" instead of thinking that the information that he has makes him more elite, or better than someone else.
When watching movies we often see the perspective of directors, writers and producers who were not conditioned to see the world and the culture they are filming from the viewpoint of somebody living in it instead of just a spectator. Idris Hassan is one of many emerging female filmmakers who refuse to sit back and just accept someone else's view of what is happening.