In this episode Kwasi brings back Dutty Bookman to discuss the movement he has helped dub as the Reggae Revival after a panel at SXSW 2027. He also speaks to Koro Fyah of the Bevel Rock camp about his ABC’s at SXSW as well. Bomani interviews the founder of the Uganda’s Bavubuka Foundation, Babaluku, and their chief archivist Gilbert Daniels about Hip-Hop in Uganda and the Lugaflow movement. Bomani and Kwasi also discuss spirituality in independent music, and how the community discusses things like sin. A must listen!
Thinking about Dr. King and his activism has me thinking even more about faith and civil rights. I am not a Christian. I have, however, been raised, loved and cared for from the beginning until now by them. I know a lot of their stories. I know how noble they have been in fighting for equal rights. There has been a version of Jesus that informed William Wilberforce and John Wesley’s opinion of slavery. This Jesus is the Jesus Charles Sheldon was referring to when he asked “What Would Jesus Do?”. This was the Jesus of the Disinherited that Howard Thurman wrote about. This is the Jesus that Martin Luther King Jr. served. This is the Jesus men like Rev. Barber invoke when they what would Jesus have done for immigrants.
Let’s be clear. People who believe in Jesus have also always been on the wrong side of the history of slavery and civil rights. From the religious settlers who brought slaves to Jamestown Virginia, or this country’s founders who compromised on slavery in their founding documents while holding Christian church services in the Capitol. The Klu Klux Klan, in its charter, is a Christian organization. For every civil rights preacher on Sunday you could find a minister trying to keep the status quo and using the bible to do so. For them, the answer to “What would Jesus Do?” was a completely different one than for Sheldon or Dr. King.
Why do so many people hear Jesus’ voice so differently? A different question that I have not seen asked or answered is: What was Jesus’ lived experience? As a non-believer, it seems like a fortuitous coincidence that Jesus’ lived experience mirrors that of so many people who need Temporary Protected Status right now. For a believer, especially those who say their faith informs all their decisions, I wonder if knowing what Jesus went through in terms of immigration would help you recognize his voice.
Let’s talk about the holy family’s escape to Egypt. For some backstory, the shepherds and the wise men were not the only ones who read the sign in the stars of a saviors birth. The man who ruled Israel, Herod, had Magi (magicians) who ask read the stars and warned him of a Israelite savior, a direct political threat to him. If you turn in your bibles to Mathew 2:13-23 it says:
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[a]
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”[b]
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
In the biblical story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus fleeing Israel for Egypt, they left because of the mortal danger to all young boys in their country. My El Salvadorian friends speak of the same terror in their home countries. In the biblical story, the holy family comes back to Israel when they feel it is safe. No time sooner. There is no mention of them having a problem with Egyptians in Egypt. If you read the Old Testament, you’ll know the writers of the Bible would’ve told us how evil the Egyptians were if they could’ve. Again, they fled in a time of danger and returned to their home country when they thought it was safe.
Just like our brothers and sister fleeing from El Salvador, Syria, Iraq and many other places, their lives and the lives of their children are in mortal danger due to dramatically violent political climates in their home countries. The blood is doubly on every US taxpayers hands because they are usually fleeing climates our government, through military and intelligence actions, have helped create. From our unfair trade laws with Haiti, Cuba and even the American territory Puerto Rico and our protracted drug war and it’s affect on Mexico and other South American countries, or our work to destabilize democratically elected governments throughout Africa, this country is more like Herod than it is like Jesus. It is like not letting your neighbor into your house late at night after you accidently (or purposefully) set theirs on fire. Remember, Jesus is the one Christians credit with the golden rule (Mathew 7:12 do unto others as you would have them do unto you).
While it is a great question to ask “What would Jesus do?”, after answering “What was Jesus’ lives experience?”, I would like to hear a believer tell me they think that Jesus is the one whispering in their ear that you should send families escaping death and destruction back into the pit of it.
Baba Bomani interviews artist and educator Konshens theMC about hip-hop in the classroom, the BARS curriculum and the H.E.L.P. literacy program, and strategies to increase engagement of students and parents at underserved schools. Learn more about Konshens and his work at http://www.konshens.com/
Hello fellow educators! For well over 15 years I have been using hip-hop, poetry and multi-media disciplines to teach fun and informative workshops with all ages from kindergarteners to graduate students. As you know, the art of MC’ing is reliant on the ability to rearrange complex ideas into concise rhymes. If they done correctly, MC’s can make memorable rhymes that stick with the listener and inform them about the world around them. It is commonly believed that the art of hip-hop rhyming is an innate talent, but by using my program B.A.R.S. to apply the principles of the writing process, any student can be taught to rhyme on topic.
B.A.R.S. workshops, residencies and teaching materials show students how a well- written essay resembles a well-written song, with the Main Idea being the thesis paragraph in an essay and a chorus/refrain/hook in a song, while the Supporting Details in an essay are just like the verses. Using my innovative B.A.R.S. techniques, students learn how to summarize any topic with a well organized paragraphs and rhymes.
Join us for this Birthday Party with live music and food at the historic Sankofa Video and Books Cafe on Georgia Avenue. Celebrate the birthday of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz aka Malcolm X. There will be a free event outdoors (Arts Under the Stars, and Crescent Moon Nights style) featuring performances and presentations from Bomani Armah, Radio Rahim, Words Beats & Life and MOMIES TLC (many more to be named soon!). There will be games and educational experiences for all ages, as well as free cake, and drinks because it’s a BIRTHDAY PARTY! This event is from 4:00-8:00pm.
From 8:00 to 10:00pm there will be a performance inside by Bomani Armah with Immaletchufinish (with more artists to be named later). Part of the funds raised from this party is going to pay for all the free stuff we did all day. This event is $20. Buy your tickets on eventbrite now!
This is the first blog on “single-parenting” from my sons’ mom Eshe. I’ll be contributing once a month. Check it out.
Your weekly breakdown of the live entertainment spots in DC this week.
The Upper Room at Club 12
Welcome to the Upper Room Tuesdays at Club XII. This is where you go to experience the upper echelon of food, drink and entertainment in Washington DC. Located in the historic H Street corridor, The Upper is is the perfect evening out with guests for fine dining and a tasty helping of DC’s finest artist. This week is our last occupying the downstairs bar area with DJ Live Wyah and special guest every night. Shout out to Juno Brown, Patrick Washington and Javier Starks for being our guests artists the last few weeks.
MAY 1st WE MOVE UPSTAIRS AND ON TO TUESDAY!!
click the flyer on the left for more details.
“So, I have to ask… are your sons mixed?”
Did you really have to ask? I’m not really offended, but thank you for confirming one of my biggest, deepest, darkest, and most shameful insecurities. It reminded me of when i did this event for a black sorority. They loved my presentation, took me out to dinner afterwards and everything …I’ll get back to that story.
So here’s the thing. I didn’t realize I was so color conscious until after the initial shock and awe of the birth of my beautiful sons. Olu and Dela were 5 lbs 1 ounce, and 3 lbs 9 ounces respectively. It had been a trying, complicated pregnancy. The second born, Dela, looked like a sleeping frog, including the narrowest butt in captivity. Among his many nick names (bantam weight champion of the world, skinny mini) “frog booty” is probably my favorite. He initially had problems breathing and drinking at the same time, but he worked through that just fine and they both look like handsome humans. He’s going to be Andre 5000. He can dance, beat-box, sing and play the jembe at the same time, despite the fact that I can never get the camera on in time to catch him. If he’s supposed to be the next Einstein I hope to know how to help him get there too. The first-born, Olu, is a stud; early sonograms show him kicking the crap out of his smaller brother. He walks around with legitimate (and overly used word these days) swagger, and is fiercely independent and alarmingly smart for a 2 year old. He’s at that cute stage where he can be smart ass and be applauded for his intelligence instead of sent to the corner for time out, and he knows it.
Almost immediately after they where born I noticed that these where the palest people I’d ever seen in my life. They were lighter than all the white doctors and nurses in the delivery room. I can’t even remember how my mind tried to rationalize it. I think I kept waiting for the color to kick in, some of my friends told me that’s what happened when they where born. But no, they are still at least 3 shades lighter than their mom, whose at least 2 shades lighter than me. Ahhh, and the blond hair around the edges of their face…
Okay, lets take this even further back. Their mom is half Cape Verdean. No, that’s not the made up ethnicity Tiger Woods said he was 10 years ago (that was “Cablasian”). It’s a small island of the coast of West Africa colonized by the Portuguese, a major stop in the Portuguese slave trade with Brazil. The people there are of every complexion you can imagine. Her grand father, one generation removed from Cape Verde, could’ve passed when he joined the U.S. military in WW II, but didn’t. They eventually made an all Cape Verdean division. There are now more Cape Verdeans in the US then in Cape Verde. They have damn near taken over New Bedford. When we first started dating, she told me not to be surprised if our children have hazel eyes and blonde hair, because Cape Verdeans are a hodgepodge of DNA. She has cousins, brothers and sisters with the same parents, who look black, Puerto Rican, and “mulatto” respectively. Neither of us knew how serious that possibility was.
It’s funny, but with my African last name people often ask me where my family is from. They look at me side ways when I say South Carolina. I haven’t done the whole “Skip Gates” thing and traced my DNA. I’ve traced my fathers family on his mothers side, the Hancock’s, through a 150 year old family tree scribbled in a bible to the “Hancox” plantation, lord knows the gumbo of combinations that happened there. My fathers mother, my grand mother, was about the same complexion as my children. She deserves a whole article to herself, but that’s for another day. We keep saying we’re going to go to the county seat and check the property records and track it even further. My father tells me that I have Cherokee or Katawba in my blood lines on his fathers side. So, basically “I got Indian in my family”. My mother side is black, as simple or complicated as that is in South Carolina.
Until I can find a way to narrow that whole explanation into one sentence, I just tell people, “nah, my sons are black, just mixed the way all of us are”.
Which is a much longer answer than the, “why should it matter?” that I want to say. But in reality, I feel like I understand. I would have the same questions, I wouldn’t have asked, but I think those things. The “black power” part of me is offended that people think their mother is white. I don’t judge anyone for deciding to be with someone of another race. It’s hard as hell finding love, and I don’t stand in the way of any one who thinks they have found it. At the same time, I could never see myself dating someone who didn’t identify themselves as black. I’ve never thought someone not black could relate to me because my blackness is a huge part of my self identity.
I’ve dated black women exclusively my whole life, of every complexion and shape. I must admit, however, that I’m as partial to light skinned black women as most black men. As sort of a nod to our conditioning, a favorite club game in college with one of my best friends and I was called “is she REALLY fine? or is she just light skinnededed?”. (you’ll find that if you really look at a lot of “fair skinned” women, they don’t have as much in common with Halle Berry or Alicia Keys other than their complexion). Talking black peoples obsession with race can get you on many tangents. So…
The look on black womens’ face, especially older black women, when I’m in the mall with my sons away from their mom, shifts from “They are the cutest little things in the word!” to “Shoulda got a sista!” in half a second flat. I get all the unspoken flak from being with a white woman, without any of the perks (you know, good credit and stuff like that), and I hate that I care. I become, in their minds, what is wrong with black men. On some level I feel like I should be able to relate to people in mixed marriages who go through that on a daily basis, but that’s not hardly what I signed up for. “They’re black dammit! I’m not your favorite basketball player or successful businessman who needed a white woman to complete his assimilation into society!” That thought is wrong on so many levels, but exactly what goes in my head.
I’m worried for my sons, and the strong African names I gave them, knowing that there is no way someone from African would ever consider them black. I’m also worried, because the few group physical confrontations I got into when I was younger, where always about jealous guys going after my light skinnededed, mixed friends. I’m more worried than anything that my own latent color consciousness will affect how I interact with them.
…So, I’m at the dinner table with a group of beautiful educated black sorority women, who are all laughing and engaged because they think I’m clever and a positive role model. They think I’m admirable because of my concern for our community and our children. I’m grinning from ear to ear because “This ‘Read a Book’ guy is the kind of black man we need more of in our community”. They love the way I speak glowingly of my sons. Naturally, they want to see a picture. When my wallet gets passed around, (they try not to, but non of them are theater majors) their faces change dramatically. After seeing that, so does mine.
“That’s why I chose you. See . . . you one a ‘dem!!”
– Samuel L. Jackson in “A Time to Kill”
So the hubbub has finally subsided. The King of Black People (Jesse Jackson) and the Prime Minister (Al Sharpton) have officially knighted Senator Obama as black enough. Of course it took a gang of white people in Iowa voting for him before anyone felt comfortable anointing him, but it happened none the less. I personally take credit for Obama solidifying the black vote because every time someone asked me that asinine “is he black enough” question, I would quip “what do you expect the first black president to be? A dashiki wearing, afro with a black fist pick having ex-black panther?”
Since that question seems to be settled, it’s time for Barack to switch gears. Okay, maybe not Barack himself, he does a good job of appearing to be above the political and racial fray. But his supporters need to start pushing the idea of how white he is. Yes, that’s right; Barack Obama is as white as he is black. The one drop rule is not a genetic law or a social fact; it is a construct of this countries racist imagination. For Christ sake, he’s distant cousins with Dick Cheney. We need to start stressing the idea that his universal appeal is partly due to him being white, like all the presidents before him.
“But Bomani, we need to appeal to the historic significance of him being black, or try to make him non-racial!”
Nothing is further from the truth. In all honesty, the more I watch him talk and interact with people, the more I’m convinced that he is a “soul brother”. He walks with a rhythm, slaps skin when he shakes hands with even the most white-bread politician, and speaks in a cadence that would make Rudy Ray Moore proud. Even though these attributes are part of the reason he has garnered support in the important blocks of voters like African Americans, liberals, anti-war activists, and the highly educated, it will also serve to galvanize a voting block that hasn’t had to come together in the history of our country. That is the all important “Aw Hell No!” voting block.
That’s right; the “Aw Hell No!” political block in our society has lain dormant for 200 years, waiting for a moment to flex its political muscle. Don’t forget that this country is over well over 60% white and well under half of the population votes. That means there are a lot of white people who could care less about the political process. They believe that national politics are really out of their reach and that it’s not worth taking off work to participate. As long as the Federal government stays within some superficial norms, they aren’t worried about who does what in November. That’s until a black man (and to be honest a, woman) had a chance to be president. This attack on the laws of the universe is destined to cause a spike in once apathetic voters.
This is the part of the editorial where I resist the temptation to stereotype all the members of the “Aw Hell No” voting block as backwoods, tobacco chewing, and cousin screwing hicks. That would be too easy and probably in accurate. This group has young and old members, in the rural areas and urban communities. “A.H.N.” members are comfortable in their existence and just aren’t ready for such a dramatic change. Most surprisingly, some members of this block have spoken glowingly of Senator Obama, maybe even attended his rallies. They won’t realize they are members of this group until the curtain is closed behind them in the voting booth.
For this reason, Barrack’s white heritage needs to be played up as much as possible. He needs to start posing with his mother’s family a lot more, not the United Nations crew of brothers and cousins he’s normally seen running with. Staffers need to start snapping as many pictures as possible of him putting mayonnaise on his sandwiches and shaking hands straight up and down (no more low fives that evolve into a shake with that pat on the back). He should also be banned from speaking at any kind of Baptist church, just churches that have only a pipe organ as an instrument and sing their songs solemnly and straight from a hymnal. Barrack should be given diction lessons so he can stop cutting of his y’s (like “li-ber-teh” and “e-kwa-li-teh”). And for heavens sake, when he’s campaigning this summer, avoid outdoor rallies!! We can’t afford him getting any darker. (Is there some cute, anglo sounding nick name that we can use as short for Barrack? I’m open to suggestions.)
“But Bomani, playing into racial stereotypes has to be counter productive! And having him fake anything takes away from the realness that gives him such broad appeal!”
Look, after he wins the presidential election I will personal show up on Pennsylvania Ave during his inauguration procession to the White House, wearing red, black and green and screaming “Barrack, Bomaye!!”. Until them I am not taking any more chances acknowledging him as a black man. If you want him to win the election I suggest you do the same.