Soulful V: “Only the Strong go Crazy” is 12/7/13

If you are anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area then you need to get to this event this Saturday Night…Thank me later.

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“Soulful V: Only the Strong go Crazy” is going to shine the artistic flashlight on mental illness in our community. It was the great revolutionary Assata Shakur who once wrote “Only the strong go crazy, the weak just go along” so on Saturday, December 7th at 8:00pm at the Grand Lake Coffee House six of the best independent artists in Oakland (Amol Ray, Demetrius Raiford, Luisa Lejia, Taijhet Nyobi, Victoria Michelle, and Do DAT) will refuse to just go along. We will read dynamic poems, perform passionate prose, and sing beautiful songs to create awareness for mental health.

It’s $5 at the door and a portion of the proceeds will go towards “Beats, Rhymes, & Life” a community based non profit in Oakland that is dedicated to promoting positive mental health outcomes among marginalized youth through hip-hop.

Also please support the closing act DO D.A.T. who will be selling his critically acclaimed album “Skinny 2: Bare Bones” for only $5.

Check the line up!

Luisa Leija’s work arrives in the form of dances, prayers, and invocations of a universal spirit. Her words call us to recognize ourselves within the world we inhabit; a world that equally inhabits us. Drawing from the indigenous traditions of the Americas, Xican@ and Mexican culture, Luisa unifies themes of community, family, history, and ceremony into a seamless journey through the mystery of human existence. A search for transformation, for truth, for connection, is ever-present throughout Luisa’s work, an endeavor that is both timely and inspiring for our present world.

Demetrius Raiford is a writer, poet, hip-hop artist and current student at Laney College. He is originally from San Francisco, CA but now currently resides in Oakland.

Taijhet Nyobi teaches poetry and performance art to youth in the Bay Area. Her poetry has been published by Saul Williams and various literary magazines. Currently, she performs with local Bay Area theater productions and independent film projects, and is the 2013 recipient for Astraea’s Global Arts Fund. She is currently starring in the Oakland based web series “Dyke Central.”

Somewhere between a fond love for the double helix, a youth spent making music in various forms, and an attempt at anthropology, you have Victoria Michelle. Frequently noted as a “wordsmith”, Victoria is currently a graduate student in Anthropology at UC Berkeley who has been making her way through the Bay Area open mic scene since April 2012. Her style employs philosophy to a flow in hopes of building a bridge between academic and public discourse. But at the end of the day, her primary goal is to excavate emotion from the depths to provoke the possibility of genuine feeling and thinking. She is currently working on her first chapbook of poetry titled “She” as a reflection her journey as a young woman coming-of-age in her own skin.

Davin A. Thompson, professionally known as Do D.A.T, is an emcee, arts educator and event host, born and raised in Oakland, CA. Throughout his career, Do D.A.T has released four albums, as a member of “The Attik” crew,
as a solo artist, and most recently collaborating with DJ/Producer Malicious.
Listen to his music @bandcamp.dodat1.com

Amol Ray is the son of Indian immigrants and was raised in Saint Louis, Missouri. He has a writing style that is just as unique as his upbringing and he possesses a natural ability to poke fun at the cultural practices that most young Americans view as being normal. He is an alum of the highly prestigious VONA workshop and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College in Oakland, CA. He’s a also a very proud father.

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Upstairs at The Ritzy

 

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I must confess that London and I got off to a very bad start. I was initially very excited to finally leave America and experience the world outside of East Oakland, CA USA. After the heinous murder of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine, the kidnapping of another 21 month old girl, and the unrest after the travesty of justice that led to George Zimmerman being found innocent of murdering Trayvon Martin, I needed to get as far away from my ghetto as I possibly could.

I came to the United Kingdom for respite, but what I got was reality. Before I could officially set foot on foreign soil for the first time in my life this racist over zealous security agent spotted me; “Black man alert! Black man Alert” she must have thought. “You looked confused,” is what she actually told me.

“I’m searching for the exit,” I said while thinking oh shit, here we go again. My instinct was right. This chick started interrogating me like she was training to be in the CIA. She asked to see my passport, what do I do for a living, where was I coming from, and “Oh you’re going to Paris? Paris is expensive” then she looked at me with great consternation.

I didn’t say anything but eventually I asked her why this was happening. I mean I had already been questioned at the UK border and they approved me. I had the stamp on my passport to prove this but obviously my stamp wasn’t enough for her. Right after I asked her this question another agent positioned himself about 15 feet behind her. He was on the ready just in case I should get out of control. But I was cool, externally at least. She told me that she was with security and she could ask as many questions as she pleased. After a little more verbal sparring she finally let me go. As I walked to the underground I couldn’t help but to think about how ironic it was for me to be heading to the birthplace of modern racism for some kind of escape. I literally laughed out loud at the notion. The words fuck her resonated through my brain. I wasn’t going to let her take my joy away and I proved that by having an absolute blast in Brixton last night.

I went to an open mic event at a venue called Upstairs at The Ritzy. Brixton is like the hood area of London therefore I, being the lifelong ghetto dweller that I am, felt perfectly at home. The Ritzy is Brixton’s local movie theater and they reserve a room upstairs for artists to share their work. Now when I heard that there was going to be an open mic naturally I thought spoken word poetry—boy was I wrong. Everyone that got on the stage was a musician. The first five acts where all guitarist, damned good ones at that. One of them had a Bob Dylan contraption in the front of his face and played his harmonica while he strummed away on his guitar. There was a trio as well. The lead singer sang and played the guitar, there was a heavily tattooed sista with an afro singing back up, and a violinist in the group. They played a beautiful mixture of folk music and hip-hop. Needless to say I was enthralled the whole evening. I was also quite a bit puzzled. I wondered why does the open mic scene in the San Francisco Bay Area continue to be dominated by people who seem to be auditioning for a role in the movie Love Jones. I’m not saying Love Jones was a bad movie I’m only pointing to the fact that it came out over 15 years ago. Get over it people! We have way more to share.

At any rate, the open mic event in Brixton was amazing.  It was precisely what I needed after that lame ass woman tried to hold me up at the airport. I’ve come to far to let racial profiling dictate my mood. My European adventure is officially underway. Stay tuned for more stories.

CHEERS! 😉

 

-YB

 

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Fruitvale Station and the Notion of Cultural Obligations

 

 

I believe in cultural obligations. This is something that my mother taught me at a very young age. I had to be about 8 years old when Young Guns II came out in the movie theater.  It was the sequel to the completely awesome and rendition to the story of Billy the Kidd starring Emilio Estevez and Lou Diamond Phillips. Needless to say I was pretty excited about it. Back in those days my mother would take my siblings and me to the movie theater about four times a year. So I was super stoked that we were getting a chance to go while this highly anticipated film was still showing. Even though I was in the 3rd grade there was never a time in my life when I couldn’t watch rated R movies so naturally I recommended that we all watch the gun-toting western together. My older brother had different intentions.

“We should watch Mo Better Blues,” he told my mother.

“What! That stupid jazz movie? Don’t nobody want to see that crap. It looks hecka boring,” I protested from the back seat.

“It’s a Spike Lee joint,” he said with passive authority.

“So what it’s gone be boring,” I continued on.

My mother probably weighed the options for about a quarter of a second.

“We’re going to see Mo Better Blues,” she said in her ‘and that’s that voice.’

I was pissed and the most I could do about it was suck my teeth. I suffered through what seemed like five hours of music with no words and multiple hardcore sex scenes. Well the sex scenes weren’t bad but I would have much rather seen Billy the Kid and The Regulators kill all those backstabbing hypocrites that were trying to run them out-of-town. I didn’t understand it at the time but my mother was teaching me a very valuable lesson. Black people are obligated to support other black people even when it hurts. And while I was sitting in that theater watching Wesley Snipes, Spike Lee, and Denzel Washington get into debates about issues that I couldn’t care less about, it REALLY HURT. After the movie was over she spoke to me about our responsibility as black folk. She told me that if we don’t look out for one another then no one else will and I got it. Very reluctantly, I got it.

 

Now several years later I sit here in front of my house composing this entry a day before the release of Fruitvale Station a story about the life and tragic death of Oscar Grant. To be straight up about it, I really don’t want to watch it. And that’s not because I don’t think it will be a good film because I think it’s going to be great. As a matter of fact last Saturday I actually met a brotha that plays a role in the movie. No it’s not that, the thing is the incidents that are chronicled in the movie are still extremely painful for me.

 

I was one of the thousands of people who marched through the streets of Oakland demanding justice for Mr. Grant after he was shot in the back by transit cops as he lay down in handcuffs on New Years Eve of 2009. I AM OSCAR GRANT was the slogan and when I said it I meant it. Because I have been to the Fruitvale BART Station several times, because he had a daughter the exact same age as mine, because I went through a phase in which I had no idea where my life was going, and because we were both young black men growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area I empathized with him completely.  I wrote about it extensively. I became enraged about it and ultimately depressed when Johannes Mehserle was sentenced to only two years for Oscar Grant’s murder. This isn’t like a movie on Fred Hampton or Ghandi—No, this is something that I actually lived through. It’s not even old enough to be historical.

 

But alas Fruitvale Station is a black movie. It was produced by Forrest Whitaker and directed by another young black man named Ryan Coogler. It also stars Octavia Spencer and was of course filmed in my hometown of Oakland, CA. But I still do not want to watch the movie. It bothers me that the Black American experience is so saturated with pain that even our leisure activities induce a certain amount of trauma. Why is awareness always a tragedy in the mind of the young black man? The story of Oscar Grant like the story of Trayvon Martin reminds me that my life is completely dispensable and I’m torn because part of me does not want to revisit that moment but another part of me knows that I can never actually leave that reality.

 

Whether I want to acknowledge it or not does not make racism less prevalent. Even when I’m eating my ice cream at the creamery, viewing art at the museum, or smelling lavender roses at the rose garden, racism is always lurking. I realize that I try to run from my issues as often as possible. I don’t want to confront the pain of my subconscious mind just like I don’t want to deal with my emotions. I feel like the film Fruitvale Station is guaranteed to make me confront both and even worse it will make me confront both of these untapped entities in a very public setting.

 

Tomorrow is the local release date of the film. I won’t see it tomorrow but I will see it before it leaves the theater. And it won’t be because I heard good things about it or because I feel like I need to learn more about the life of Oscar Grant but it will only be because I feel like it is my duty as an African-American to support the film. I will support the film because that’s the way I was raised.

-YB

Soulful IV-Deeply Rooted/ July 6th 2013/The Beast Crawl Oakland

*Note-Hey people I’m hosting this event and I would love to see my friends from the blogosphere there.1008384_529224677113757_1678015846_o

We’re going to end Beast Crawl 2013 (http://beastcrawl.weebly.com/) with a bang!

“Soulful IV: Deeply Rooted” is a cultural explosion just waiting to happen. The line up includes a group of consistently published, standing ovation getting, conscious minded, game spitting, self-loving artists who know how to move the crowd and know just exactly where they come from. So if you’re not there on July 6th then tsk, tsk. Don’t say I didn’t tell you. Check out the stellar line up:

AUDACIOUS IAM is not only a national performance spoken word artist but she is a host, educator, empowerment speaker, social service worker, and youth advocate. She received her MFA from Mills College in the spring of 2013.

BRANDON HUGHES is a writer from Oakland, CA. He’s been featured on CBS 5, was an invited guest speaker at Yahoo, and the Oakland Tribune wrote a full article on him, calling him ”a promising writer.” His novel, The Man Behind The Curtain, is set in Oakland, and is being taught in middle schools and high schools. BRANDON WILL HAVE COPIES OF HIS BOOK TO SELL AT SOULFUL!!!!!

CANDICE ANTIQUE WICKS Antique is an independent singer/songwriter and co-founder of Antique Music, a multifaceted project that uses music and theatre as a tool for education, healing and activism. She is also the lead singer for the band Antique Naked Soul, an a cappella band featuring renown beat boxer Tommy Shepherd, that uses loopers and beat boxing to create live beats on stage. Antique Naked Soul has opened for Les Nubiens, Mos Def, Talib Kwali and many more. CANDICE WILL BE SELLING MUSIC AT THE SHOW!!!!!!!!

DONTE CLARK (artistically known as DonBlak) is a 23yr old Richmond Native. He is a poet, activist, playwright, actor, and musically inclined people’s champion who embodies the struggle of the people and uses his words to heal the wretched of the earth and unshackle the minds of the masses.

JAMES CAGNEY Oakland native James Cagney is a Cave Canem and VONA Fellow. He was a featured artist in Midnight In Mumbai, Miko Kuro’s Midnight Tea, Celebration of the Word and San Francisco Public Library. His poems appeared in Ambush Review, Oaklandlocal.com and Sparring with the Beatnik Ghosts. JAMES WILL HAVE COPIES OF HIS DEBUT POETRY COLLECTION “DIRTY THUNDERSTORM” FOR SELL AT SOULFUL!!!!!!!

MUTHONI KIARIE is a Kenyan writer, living in Oakland, California. Her work has been published in Narrative Magazine, Generations Literature Magazine, 580 Split and The Weeklings. She is an MFA graduate of Mills College.

Hosted by Roger Porter

Trust me when I tell you “Deeply Rooted” is going to be THIS soulful (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IexQYkNO2Ec).

So plan on being in attendance and trust me you will be grateful that you came. And if you need more incentive check out how beautiful these Deeply Rooted writers are: http://beastcrawl.weebly.com/soulful.html
See ya on July 6th.

You Need to go to this Event on MAY18th!

Soulful III Profile

 

 

 

A Night of literary Performances

“SOULFUL III: Revolutionary Dreams” is almost here!

Be ready for six of your favorite poets and writers to light up the microphone on Malcolm X day, 2013.


That’s Saturday, May 18th at the Grand Lake Coffee House (440 Grand Ave) in Oakland, CA.

ONLY $5 at the door.

If you don’t believe the insane amount of talent we have lined up then check the lineup:

Raphael Cohen—Raphael Cohen is a writer and performer committed to utilizing the word as a vehicle for social change. In 2007, he released Scrutinizing Lines, his first full-length poetry collection. Originally from New York, Raphael has lived in Oakland since 2001. He holds a MFA in poetry from Mills College, and currently teaches writing at The Bay School of San Francisco.

Joy Elan—Joy Elan is from Oakland and Berkeley, CA. She received her undergraduate degree in African American Studies at UC Berkeley and her graduate degree in Education at Stanford University. She wrote Signs of Life: Past, Present, and Future and performs spoken word in the Bay Area. She is working on a new book, Silence Is Not Always Golden: A Poetic Revolution, which is scheduled to be released Summer 2013. She is currently working with urban youth and raising her daughter in Oakland.Joy Elan’s Websites: http://www.joyelan.webs.com and http://www.facebook.com/authorjoyelan

Kwan Booth—Kwan Booth is an award winning writer and strategist focusing on the intersection of communications, community, art and technology. He is the cofounder of Oaklandlocal.com and the Black Futurist Project, editor of “Black Futurists Speak: An Anthology of New Black Writing” and “Soul of Oakland: A People’s Guide to The Town.” He has been published in CHORUS, the literary mixtape” and “Beyond the Frontier: African American Poets for the 21st Century,” He writes at http://boothism.org/

MADlines—MADlines was born & raised in Seattle. She came up in the 206’s vibrant music and spoken word scenes. As one half of the dynamic two-lady rap duo, Canary Sing, MADlines rocked hundreds of stages and opened for the likes of Binary Star, Macklemore and Mystic. Since moving to Oakland three years ago, she’s released a solo Mixtape & attained a Master’s in Fine Arts degree from Mills College. She’s currently working on a Reggae/Hip-hop fushion E.P. called LOVE CHILD–to be released in the summer! Follow her on twitter @MAD_lines for updates! ~MADlove~

Scott Duncan- Scott Russell Duncan, frankly, is a lingerer and a lurker. He’s seen a president eat enchiladas, escaped being held hostage by nuns, fled Mills College with an MFA, and makes his lair in Oakland. Scott’s ancestors are Californio, Hispano, and Texian, so he’s half white guy and Mexican. His novel in progress is The Ramona Diary of SRD, a memoir and fictional travel diary about California.

Aries Jordan—Aries Jordan has been writing poetry since elementary school but it wasn’t until 2010 that she began to share it with the world. In 2011 she released a collection of poems entitled ” Journey to womanhood: A poetic Rite of Passage” through Black Bird Press. Her poetry has been featured in the “Pan African Journal of Poetry” 2011, “PACT Family Newsletter” 2012, and “Stand Our Ground: Poems for Trayvon Martin and Marrissa Alexander.” Her writing has also been featured in The Oakland Post.

Please support our independent artists and buy their books at SOULFUL III.

The event will be hosted by Roger Porter.

It’s definitely going to go down so get ready!

Blaxploitation 2013

I never really liked the old Dolomite movies my uncle used to watch on VHS, but I did have an affinity for The Mack starring Max Julian. Even as a young child (come to think of it I was probably way too young to be watching a movie about a gangster pimp. At any rate…) I thought Goldy, the lead character, was the coolest thing walking. The fact that it was filmed in my hometown of Oakland, CA also factored into my enchantment with the movie. My uncle dug Goldy too. He was into the loud clothes, and the flamboyant hats. He liked the classic pimp lines like; “Mutha ****** can you buy that?” and “Next time you hear grown folks talking shut the **** up hear!”

 

This was of course before Spike Lee, John Singleton, and a few others began trying to make dignified movies about black people trapped in American ghettos. So for my uncle’s generation if you wanted to see black folks on the big screen you had to see African-American culture as interpreted by a few white men. What I mean by that is that The Mack as well as almost all other Blaxploitation movies were written, directed, casted and produced by middle aged white dudes. The objective of these movies was not to show the humanity of the characters but rather it was to make the most money possible and to do it in a way that was completely nonthreatening to white America.

In today’s “post racial society” one would assume that America has moved far beyond these one-dimensional cultural snap shots. But then again if one were to do so then one would be absolutely wrong.

21st century entertainment has been sabotaged by the viral video. No matter if it’s someone rapping, mocking his girlfriend, or fighting, it’s all about how many views you generate. In fact the lure of the viral video has become so strong that even news media has gotten involved. Every year a new African-American eyewitness to a crime becomes the latest Internet celebrity. From Antoine Dodson to Sweet Brown to Charles Ramsey— all of them represent that loud, attitude having, unemployed, unlettered African-American’s that our White-American counterparts can never seem to get enough of. In essence they are the latest form of Blaxploitation.

http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/antoine-dodson-renounces-homosexuality-to-become-a-hebrew-israelite/5182bb0dfe3444064200027e

I have no idea how respectable news outlets around the country can get away with showing black people with scarves on their heads screaming and yelling in unnecessarily dramatic fashion and pass it off as an honest account of what took place. And in the case of Antoine Dodson they even conducted a secondary interview. Since when did crime become comedy? Since when did the 5 o’clock news become Showtime at the Apollo? Just like Superfly, Shaft, and Goldy the Mack, nothing should be taken too seriously when it comes out of the mouth of a black person. It’s strictly for entertainment purposes only.

-YB

HerStory

EPIC! That’s the first term that comes to mind when I think about the long journey of bringing “Herstory” to fruition. It was March 30, 2012 when I sat down to conduct my first interview with Niema Jordan in my shabby East Oakland living room. When we finished recording our conversation I thought the project, in its entirety, would be complete within two months. I was hella wrong.

So many bad things happened that my selective memory won’t even allow me to recall most of them. I do remember amicably parting ways with my original editor halfway through the project. I do remember at least two other people committing to the project only to back out once they were able to truly internalize the fact that I could not pay them. And well, everything else is a blank until I reconnected with a fellow Skyline High School graduate who possessed the skill set and the passion to bring Herstory back to life. It was February 11 when she committed to the project. Now seven weeks later it’s done.

I’m high right now. I mean I’m super elated. I’m glad that Herstory survived all of the abandonment that it was exposed to in its infantile stages. I’m glad that beauty still exists in this world and I am so grateful that I have crossed paths with three super dynamic black women that opened up to me and told me their stories. With no further ado this is Herstory: