on the 10th anniversary of black women rock

first thing we saw in the theater of the charles wright museum was nina simone on a screen speaking about that blackness, grounding us in the assumption of our beauty, power, greatness. the sold-out 10th anniversary of black women rock was officially beginning with a powerhouse concert, the first event of a two day exchange of love and brilliance amongst black women, curated by jessica care moore.

my sweetheart and i got cute and went.

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the artists were brilliant, starting with a series of short intimate performances saturday night.

jessica, the force behind this event, shifted between emceeing and performing her own rock jazz poetic offerings throughout the night, with about seven original outfits in the rotation. i honor her for the work of creating such a space, a container for legacy building.

the people she invited were a mix of the brand new and the delightfully familiar.

kimberly nichole was up first, very young and feisty in her tutu, ‘rock ballerina’ her signature style. her voice is compelling. i got her cds, and i am excited to see how she grows.

on either side of the stage artists were painting. i ended up buying a piece created during the evening, detroit artist/teacher/fashionista sabrina nelson’s take on betty davis’s nasty gal cover.

tamar-kali creates a solid wall of afro punk rock black classical music sound – really unparalleled because she is creating something new, rough and somehow tender and gorgeous. i own all of her music and merch, but was excited to see her perform after recently contributing to her campaign to take her work on her first solo tour. i need this tour, and so do you, so donate to support it.

imani uzuri makes me feel like i am in the fifth element. she unleashes a futuristic operatic experience, pouring forth from a bright light of black global womanhood. her album gypsy diaries was one of my favorites from last year.

steffanie christi’an performed music from her new cd, which i also had to get. i love her tina-turner-demanding-full
-audience-attention kind of stage presence, and her full body commitment to rock.

joi was next and there really is very little i can say to do justice to the effect she has on me as a woman with southern roots, as a pleasure activist, as an artist. i have listened to her for years but had never seen her on a stage. she is a legend and a perfection. leather latex tank and pencil skirt, locks down to her thighs, fishnets which you can see end mid thigh up a back slit. everything fitting like a breath on a bone. red heels roughly ten inches high. i was fanning myself before she opened her mouth…and then she opened her mouth and sang these growling emotive notes. the things she does and sings all feel true, and important for us to hear, sing, scream along with her.

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wunmi closed out the night, a british nigerian dancer and singer. she brought the rest of the world to the stage. her music was a comfort, a home sound in a way that is ancestral, not logical. the way she moves is breathtaking and she opened a situation on that stage where ferocious spirit was pulling everyone up and through their bodies.

on sunday they followed up the show with a panel, and i had to share with you a taste of the wisdom these artists dropped (culled from twitter and memory)

jessica care moore:

i taught my son, king.

who does mommy work for? mommy.

what is mommy’s job? poet.

how does mommy pay the bills and make sure we have this house? poetry.

and who are you going to work for? king.

wunmi:

The spirit gives you what you’re going to do & you let it form you, wherever you are. A rose will blossom in dogshit, but I know I’m still a rose.

Back in Africa you don’t think about anything, you just live it. I didn’t learn I was black until I traveled to the US. It is deep to have to think about your color every day.

With children you nurture them by letting them seeing you for who you are. I never ask the children I teach to do what I can’t do.

I made myself belong to me.

tamar-kali:

I can only be true to myself. When I go against that, it brings me nothing but pain.

It’s really important not to prescribe for others, that’s the white supremacist model. I don’t want to flip that, to be in reaction, to just do the same behavior to others. Not everyone wants to approach life like I do. I am embracing the differences.

I’m thinking (about how we turn) accolades into action. Technology has us less connected. We think that to ‘like’ something is to take an action.

Don’t say you love me & then never purchase my music. Art is an exchange, it’s our energy, we pour our whole selves into it. And we’ve all worked through pain, grief, death through the work of others.

Also, make something. (she was wearing wool socks and a cowl that she’d crocheted – which are available as perks if you invest in her tour!) We don’t create anymore!

To change who I am based on other’s expectations is to lie. I refuse to lie on stage. I’m embracing my whole humanity.

I am working now on embracing my humanity, and getting other people of color to see ourselves as an integral part of human history. I don’t want to ask, to be an afterthought, a token, or tolerated – I am understanding that I, that all of us, are an essential part of the history of humankind.

imani uzuri:

I’d been socialized to diminish what it meant to be an artist, so I became an activist, and said ‘I’m a revolutionary!’ Then I remembered who I was, and I could not deny that my work was as an artist. And I was going to make my living as an artist.

The revelation (of being an artist) is not linear. It’s ongoing, it’s a series of choices…as I unveil myself to myself.

Media & entertainment is used as distraction. Propaganda is real. We have to keep decolonizing ourselves.

Imani also had a beautiful moment of speaking about being a bisexual artist and how important it is to hold that space as a black woman. She was moved to tears, and moved many of us right along with her, as she spoke of the tension of being both privileged and marginalized in the same life.

joi:

you can’t see the way forward if you don’t know what to honor from the past. I’m a preservationist, musically.

I don’t strategize necessarily, but I can inspire others to awaken in themselves. I can see that something.

If we are fortunate enough we all become masters of something. I’m embracing my mastery, bringing mastery of others together.

revolution comes from baring your complete self, can’t nobody fade that.

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afrofuturism and detroit

what an exciting morning in detroit.

started off with the always elegant ingrid lafleur speaking on afrofuturism and detroit in a talk oriented towards creatives.

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here are some twitter highlights, mostly quotes from ingrid:

“An apocalypse doesn’t end in something destroyed, it’s opportunity for transformation. For example, look at @octaviabutler’s parables.”

images from wild seed, pictures of sun ra and imani uzuri, art from bodys isek kingalez were flipping through as she spoke.

“#Afrotopia (the gorgeous logo/imagery from brilliant wesley taylor) is creating radical futuristic art in a majority black city to generate positive social change. Includes magical daily practice.”

“I like #afrofuturism because u have to know ancient history, cosmology, quantum physics, beyond school, broaden black identity.”

sun ra, who was from saturn and was helping us journey through music.

“I enjoy that #Detroit is 82% black & that informs the culture & art…I believe I live in a magical reality all the time.”

“I don’t think you need disposable income to go beyond your current reality. It’s about getting out beyond assumptions.”

“A lot of these ideas are tradition, are within us, they don’t come from going to school.” (beautiful particular as an offering to the mostly art student audience who were genuinely perplexed as to how to engage)

“#afrofuturism is about black being at center – diversity can come, but it’s about the liberation we, in a majority black city, still don’t have.” (in response to the ever brilliant and fearless dream hampton, who questioned the need to constantly move to diversity instead of learning to be in a black space, where black is the center of the work)

“Within our gritty, our bones are beautiful, we have great housing stock, our city is already beautiful & quite vibrant.”

“I need me to exist, even when I die.” – George Henry, at #afrofuturism talk.

after the talk, a few circles of blackness pooled together in the room, vibrating to be in each other’s presence. we talked about octavia butler salons. we talked about how as black people it isn’t about demanding entree into white spaces, especially white spaces in this black city. it’s about creating work so undeniable that being centered is not a question. it was thrilling to meet folks in the arts, design and performance world also bubbling about octavia and black brilliance.

as we were leaving, one of the lovely black men i’d met at the event backed his car into another’s. we all looked at the damage and instead of anyone getting mad, they decided it was an opportunity to sit down for dinner and get to know each other better. it felt like afrofuturism in practice, leaning into each other, creating more possibility, because we need each other, rather than indulging in potential conflict.

then i took some of my broccoli/cauliflower/leek/manchego soup over to grace lee boggs. on the way i had an exciting scifi idea about self-governance in detroit. i shared it with grace and we giggled our way through updating each other on the opportunities we are seeing now. she’s always been ahead of her time, which is saying a lot as she approaches 98 years on the planet this summer.

i’m nearing the end of a beautiful month at home and spring is everywhere. detroit love, black love, that is all.

from a renaissance

coming to you live from the heart of a renaissance, renaissance meaning a rebirth, detroit being a city that has been born again over and over. when i first started coming around the D, i knew that a movement was afoot in hip-hop. i saw invincible, finale, guilty, black milk, buff 1, miz korona, mz jonz, slum village, and so many others coming together in a way that was unprecedented and unapologetic. what i heard over and over was: this is the home of j dilla and big proof and we won’t deny anymore the unique and raw creations that come out of this place.

i first heard monica blaire on a cd, which blew me away AND didn’t even come close to the joie de vivre she injects in an audience in a live performance. she is the best live performer of her generation anywhere in the world based on my experiences, and she is right here, close enough to touch, humble enough to hug and big up all those around her. [here’s a trio of short videos from my phone shot last night when she jammed impromptu with the marvelous and adorable and allaroundgreat chilean hip-hop star anita tijoux: one, two, three.]

so for a while i know it has been happening, absolutely, but then i moved here, and my immersion in what is happening every night and day all around this city…it is so exciting to be here at this moment in detroit, where the energy of new things emerging out of an old soul city is present and palpable.

just four days ago detroit brought us jessica care moore‘s black women rock, a concert in tribute of the delicious and edge-slicing betty davis, brief wife of miles davis, sex-flinging artiste who still elicits a frenzy today when her words and images and fashions reach us.

the artists who slipped through, including brooklyn rock divas imani uzuri and tamar-kali and internationally renowned artist marcia jones, were thrilled to be in motor city, and kept talking about the creative energy alive here. steffanie christian was my discovery of the weekend…she got up and rocked 5 songs that moved me outside myself in 5 different ways.

the next day jessica hosted a brunch for the women who performed, and there was an impromptu song session where folks shared what they had to offer, what was in their souls at that moment. what i felt in that room was the miracle-worthy experience that can happen when creative people realizing their potential share space. it was historic, and healing, and so easy to take in.

attendees included the incomparable piper carter, who has envisioned and uplifted The Foundation as a weekly Tuesday night fertile space for the growth of women artists in the D, featuring DJ’s Mel Wonder, Sticky Niki, & La Jedi with B-Girls Mama (Hardcore Detroit), Ri$ Money, & Teena Marie & Graffiti Artist Riku. the night often lends itself to the kind of inspired spontaneous moments only possible when great talent smashes into a liberated open welcoming zone and can expand to its full size. miz korona and mz jonz, who i call comedianne-rappers, regularly play here.

and of course i have to say that my partner invincible is a key player in every aspect of this moment, and in my own life. only a few weeks ago, invincible took two showcases to SXSW – a Detroit showcase, and a Women in Hip Hop showcase. she has seen the groundbreaking transformative potential of this city for as long as i have known her.

there is a hip-hop renaissance here, but there is simultaneously and intersectionally a thrilling movement of female artistry and creativity happening in Detroit which aligns with the shift to the feminine that is happening in every arena, internationally, philosophically, politically, in families, in structures. everyone is welcome to visit, and co-create, and bring it all to visit, and showcase it, and let it seed and scatter and grow within you.