Category Archives: music

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Live From Facing Race: Keynote Address Featuring Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, and Tashawn Reagon

This year’s keynote session for Facing Race starts at 4:30 p.m. EST and will be a multi-generational affair featuring Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, and Tashawn Reagon.

From the program description:

Bernice Johnson Reagon, a scholar, singer/songleader, and activist for over half a century, has been a profound contributor to African American and American culture. Born in Southwest Georgia, her singing style and traditional repertoire are grounded in her experiences in church, school, and political activism. As a composer, she has created a narrative of her social and political activism through her songs and larger compositions. She performed as a member of the SNCC Freedom Singers during the sixties; founded an all women a capella ensemble, The Harambee Singers, during the Black Cultural Movement; and founded and led the internationally acclaimed Sweet Honey In The Rock for thirty years until retirement. Paralleling her work in music, Reagon is one of the leading authorities in African American Cultural History.

Her strongest musical collaborator is her daughter, Toshi Reagon. Described as “a one-woman celebration of all that’s dynamic, progressive and uplifting in American music,” Toshi is a composer, producer, founder, and leader of her own ensemble, Toshi Reagon and Big Lovely. Taking the stage at 17, singer, songwriter, guitarist Toshi Reagon moves audiences with her cross genre offerings of blues, rock, gospel, and incredible original songs. Collaboratively, these two socially conscious women artists have masterfully created two operas, “The Temptation of St Anthony” and “Zinnias: The Life of Clementine Hunter.”

Tashawn Nicole Reagon is a Sociology and Gender Studies major and an Intergroup Relations minor at Skidmore College. Tashawn has co-facilitated a two-credit, intergroup dialogue between students of color and white students on race, and interned in the Gender Rights and Equality Unit of the Ford Foundation, where she wrote a report entitled Student Activism for Gender Equity. Tashawn helped to establish the Justice Project at Saint Ann’s high school that examined issues of race and other identities.

The full session, as posted online, can be seen live below.

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The Racialicious Preview for San Diego Comic-Con, Part II: Saturday & Sunday

By Arturo R. García

Thanks to Kendra, as ever, for covering Part I of the weekend. As usual, you can find our panel coverage on Twitter through her account, the R official feed and my own personal account.

Just like last year, we’ll be compiling our individual panels on Storify and posting them next week. For now, though, let’s look at the second half of the con!

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The Ghost of Bigger Thomas Surfaces in Kayne West’s Monster [The Throwback]

With Kanye West in seemingly another controversy this week following a mid-concert rant, it’s a good time to revisit Latoya’s look at the furor surrounding his 2011 single, “Monster.”

By Latoya Peterson

Kanye has officially overdosed on artistic symbolism.

After his 35 minute debut of "Runaway" in back in October 2010, it difficult to figure out how Kanye would top a video that incorporated references to modern performance art, ballet, couture, mythology, and Fellini.

And yet, I don't think anyone counted on Kanye deciding to deck the halls with dead white women in "Monster".
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Watch: Pia Glenn Takes On Nick Cannon’s ‘White People Party Music’

By Arturo R. García

This week, Comedian Pia Glenn’s Black Weekend Update webseries took aim at the new Nick Cannon album, White People Party Music, and Cannon’s attempts to both explain that he was “p*ssing people off” while it was “all in fun.”

“You want to p*ss people off? Congratulations.” Glenn says. “But when it comes to issues of race in America, some of us are trying to make change, not just urinate. And we can’t make change if your shenanigans pop up like an arcade token in my roll of quarters when I’m trying to do laundry and not here to play games.”

Thankfully, Glenn rounds up Cannon’s many misfires — and keep an eye out for Cookie Carter, as well.

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Always Foreign, Always Brown: Crown Heights-based activist DJ Ushka on growing up in Thailand, gentrification, global bass, and Edward Said

By Guest Contributor Rishi Nath, cross-posted from Open City Magazine

Crown Heights-based activist DJ Ushka. All images by Nabil Rahman.

[Editor’s Note: This is Open City’s second installment of “Lyrics To Go,” a collaboration between writer Rishi Nath and multimedia journalist Nabil Rahman . The series features conversations with contemporary musicians whose life and work intersects both Asian-American communities and New York City neighborhoods. Click here for DJ Ushka’s special mix for Open City readers.]

These days, DJ Ushka seems to be everywhere at once. She is all over Brooklyn, whether opening for Sundanese vocalist Alsarah in Stuyvesant Heights, deejaying and booking the monthly iBomba party in Williamsburg, or swooping in to save the AAWW PageTurner Festival party after a booked act canceled last minute. She also zig-zags the country, appearing at gigs in Boston, Philadelphia and Oakland. And that’s just weekends. During the day, she is a full-time staff member at the New York Immigration Coalition , where she handles communications and youth development.

Born Thanu Yakupitiyage, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Ushka grew up in Bangkok, Thailand. She attended college in western Massachusetts, where she was turned on to post-colonial theory. From her spacious, dimly lit living room in Crown Heights, she described how that experience, a decade ago, changed her.

“It was the first time that I really started to understand concepts such as Orientalism, through Edward Said,” she said. Her laptop, attached to speakers and headphones, was open and glowing on the coffee table in front of her as she spoke. A poster proclaiming “Stop Racial Profiling,” hung on the wall behind her.
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Beyoncé’s SUPERPOWER as a Love Letter to Black Radical Insurgency

A still from Beyonce’s Superpower video via. Entretenimento

By Guest Contributor M. Shadee Malaklou, cross- posted from JesusFuckingChristBlog

In her December 13th article for The Raw Story, A Plea: Remember Beyonce’s Record Is Art, Not A Political Treatise”, freelance journalist Amanda Marcotte — who writes on feminism, national politics, and pop culture — tackles the accusation that Beyoncé’s album is “anti-feminist” (referencing reactions to lyrics like “bow down, bitches”) by reminding us that Beyoncé has produced for us a work of art, not one of politics. …Because if we look closely, her politics are flawed, or so the argument goes. Marcotte faults Beyoncé for “reinforc[ing] the same beauty standards she decries on the records”, but ultimately concludes that Beyoncé is still a feminist because, you know, feminism is messy. Marcotte ends the piece in (what she claims is) a “plea” that not only fails to understand Beyoncé’s feminism, but also functions to silence the Black radical politics of Beyoncé’s work:

I want to remind everyone that music is not a polemical or a campaign pamphlet. Music is art. Art can—should—be messy, contradictory, raw, and emotional. I love that Beyonce openly struggles in her music and in her image between the push-pull of both wanting to embody this kind of feminized perfection and seeing it for the trap that it is. It’s much more honest and human and humane than some kind of bland feminist treatise set to a beat. Beauty is a painful trap to ensnare women, but beauty is also pleasure and it draws you in. Denying these contradictions and presenting ourselves as people who have it all figured out all the time is tempting, but it’s not honest. And it’s certainly not art, which is supposed to reveal, not conceal. Just a small plea from me to remember that we’re talking about an art form, not a political treatise, as we tear into the lyrics, beats, and imagery that Beyoncé just turbo-launched into the public.

In one short paragraph, Marcotte manages to remind us why white feminism fails (still) to address the experiences of Black women as women; and in the same stroke, disaffects us — as a viewing public — from our identification(s) with Beyoncé as a woman of color. As an ideology, (white) feminism demands that women identify (and rally) as women first, and as bodies of color second, or better yet, last. Marcotte forecloses on the overdeterminacy of Blackness in an anti-Black world, and underestimates Beyoncé’s commitment to (what I am going to suggest here is) an insurgent, Black political future.

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Quoted: Eat the cake, Anime: On White Cluelessness (and Beyoncé)

“If that name is a Miley Cyrus pseudonym I’m going to bed. Dang, it’s getting feminist up in this track.”
Naturally, “that name” refers to Chimimanda, whose contribution you later dismissed as an annoying “soundbite.” Okay.
Teachable Moment Two: Learn about a culture other than your own.
Look, White Writerperson, I imagine your cozy Cave of White Clulessness is comfy and fantastic. I’m sure it has central air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter and a friendly, well-dressed Negro gentleman at the door to help you with with a smile when your non-burdens get too heavy to bear on your own. And all the coleslaw and unseasoned chicken one could ever want, I’m sure. Color me relieved envious, really.
But here’s where you get to be a good Privileged Person and learn about a culture other than your own. I know Chimamanda, a Regular Black Person Who Isn’t Doing Anything Worth “Borrowing,” isn’t a pop culture icon. But do yourself a favor and look her up. She wrote Half of a Yellow Sun, for fuck’s sake.

To suggest that Miley would dig deep enough into the barrel of Blackness, doing overtime at the Appropriation Station to adopt a Nigerian pseudonym is telling: You, too, know how serious your skinfolk take their culture vulturing. It’s a full time job. So vast, our Sea of Awesomeness, right?

Teachable Moment Three: Learn how influence works.

French fries do not influence potatoes. Britney does not influence Janet. Justin does not influence Michael Jackson. Lessors do not influence The Great Ones. Similarly, Miley Cyrus does not influence Beyoncé. Now bite your motherfucking tongue.

To say such a thing is akin to saying that the car influences the paved road on which it travels. The Great Ones Blacked Excellently so that the latecomers could siphon that Black Excellence for profit and Blackpoints. Not vice versa.

–  “Eat the cake, Anime: On White Cluelessness (and Beyoncé),” by Alexander Hardy originally posted at Thecoloredboy.com

 

A Muslimah’s Guide to Rocking the World

By Guest Contributor Amina Jabbar, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch

Growing up as a queer-identified South Asian Muslimah and a survivor of domestic violence, I’ve occasionally felt that merely existing was, in and of itself, an act of rebellion. But I’ve been fortunate. I’ve not only survived, but thrived, now living the life of a resident physician.

I can’t take all the credit for where I am because, simply put, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. Through my life, I’ve consistently found media depictions of Muslim women and others engaging in daily acts of resistance to subvert and redefine the predominant discourses about Muslim women. These people and stories form a series of lessons to which I give credit for the awesome trajectory of my life. Here, then, are my seven lessons for a Muslimah’s guide to rocking the world.

Lesson #1: Our commitment to social justice reflects our commitment to faith.

It’s easy, I think, to get lost in the textual analyses of faith alone. The Qu’ran and hadiths are, after all, rich, deep, and complicated. But in an incredible interview on Vimeo, Amina Wadud makes a distinction between being a servant of God and an agent of God.  She talks about how her focus on the Qu’ranic meanings alone wasn’t enough; that being an agent implies an obligation to actively live in ways that are consistent with principles of social justice. Wherever and whenever there is injustice, we’re obligated to challenge the status quo.

Activist Fanta Ongoiba. Image via The Star.

Lesson #2: Some principles are worth being unwaveringly unapologetic about.

Our social and political positions may not always be popular. In general, I’m all for compromise but, occasionally, there are principles that are and should be “non-negotiable.” With the non-negotiables of life, even when the going gets tough, there should be no sidelining, shifting, or redrafting of the message. Easy to say, difficult to do. But Fanta Ongoiba, executive director of Africans in Partnership Against AIDS in Toronto, makes it look slick. Sexual health and HIV remain hushed, tabooed  topics within many Muslim communities. Ongoiba’s work , recently honored by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, provides real space and fills a real need, no matter the response from religious leaders. As a Toronto Star article put it, “at an international conference, one sheik called her a ‘troublemaker,’ a label she embraced” and to which she also responded “ I’d prefer to be a troublemaker to wake you up.”

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