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!
Take a listen to my latest project, “The Baba Bomani Show” podcast! This podcast is dedicated to everything education and youth development. Featuring interviews, discussions and tips on art integration, STEM and STEAM, experiential learning, education policy, educational music and much more! This show is for parents, teachers and everyone else interested in the development of young people. Check out the first episode here, and then check out babagotbars.com. Thanks for the continued support!
repost from Young Audiences of Maryland
Teaching Our Youngest Learners Environmental Citizenship Through the Arts
Part 2: Local Ecosystems
This Spring, Young Audiences wrapped up the initial phase of its pilot programming for Prince George’s County Public School District’s new arts integration initiative, Growing Up Green. We introduced the program in an earlier blog post, but here is a refresher for those who missed it:
The initiative is part of an exciting new partnership between Young Audiences/Arts for Learning and Prince George’s County Public Schools and is funded in part by a BGE Green Grant and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The program engages kindergarteners in meaningful and authentic outdoor experiences that help connect them to their local ecosystems and inspire them to learn more about protecting our environment. The arts provide the vehicle that the students use to demonstrate and communicate their understanding to the greater learning community of their school.
Bomani, a Young Audiences Teaching Artist, began his pilot program by using poetry to investigate the process of composting with five groups of Kindergarten classes at three different schools: John Hanson Montessori, Oxon Hill Elementary, and Benjamin Foulois Creative and Performing Arts Academy. Over 80 kindergarteners had the opportunity to literally get their hands dirty in hands-on learning while understanding everything from what type of trash can be composted to why we need to grow food. Read on to hear more about Poetry and Composting from Bomani…click here
Whenever Tariq Omarii calls, I’m there. Thanks again brother, for inviting me to talk about fatherhood and homeschooling on Views and Vibes. To be clear (I realize I might give a different impression on social media) I am not a “single father”. Olu & Dela’s mom is just as invested and active even though the boys primarily stay with me now. I also hate being considered an “expert”. I’m making it up as I go along, as most parents. This was a great opportunity to highlight the work of the homeschool collectives I work for, and just further the conversation on parenting. Definitely take a look, pass it around, and let me know what you think! (my segment starts around the 15 minute mark)
Whether KRS-1 was screaming “You Must Learn!”, Inspektah Deck admonishing us to “…speak the truth to the young black youth”, Slick Rick teaching lessons in “Hey Young World” or Nas encouraging the youth with “I Can”, hip-hop has always tried (to varying degrees of success) to incorporate the kids. I get asked all the time for hip-hop music and educational material, and have found it a harder to find the music than I expected.
A year ago I asked my social media friends to to give me their favorite rap songs I could play for 3rd graders, and it was even more discouraging. The list of songs I received were incredible, spanning classics and hidden gems from the great hip-hop albums (including De La Soul’s “Me Myself and I” that I actually use in the classroom now). The problem is, “family-friendly” in hip-hop is completely relative. In a genre not afraid of rhyming about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll (even raping corpses at times) the songs that are “soft” in comparison are still to “hard” for an 8 year-old. To that end, I have compiled a few of my most trusted hip-hop resources for kids. This list highlights simply great music that children can find entertaining, to full fledged curriculum with common-core tie in’s and ways to increase your young students knowledge. Here are 4 hip-hop resources 4 your kids.
“More Fraggles than Wiggles, more Soul Train than Thomas the Train, 23 Skidoo is equal parts Dr. Suess and Dr. Dre!”
This is great music for the emotional development of your young person. From his anthems dedicated to childhood favorite activities like “Pillow Fight” or dealing with childhood difficulties like moving to new communities and losing friends in “Chase the Rain”, Skidoo seems to remember what it’s like to be 9. The music and incredibly creative and fun videos offers his poetic insights to make adolescence all better. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo also teaches residencies and was nominated for a Grammy in 2015. With his live instrumentation, and being occasionally upstaged by his daughter MC Fireworks, Skidoo can best be described as hardcore sunshine. Check out his new project The Perfect Quirk and his most popular video “Gotta Be Me”.
“Christylez Bacon offers well-written tales and observations about everyday life that flow smoothly over jazz-influenced tunes” – Curt Fields The Washington Post
Full disclosure, Christylez is my artistic brother. Year ago I would have called him my little brother, as I was one of his many mentors when he began his artistic journey years ago. One of my first teaching experiences was working with Tim Jones (aka Optimist) and the Crushed I.C.E. program at Martha’s Table, where a young Chris was one of our star pupils. I have seen him grow from a teenage lyrical phenomenon, to the unofficial hip-hop laureate of Washington D.C., and one of the most colorful and respected voices in hip-hop music. Whether jamming to his debut project Advanced Artistry, or his Grammy nominated project with Cathy and Marcy Banjo To Beatbox or his new solo EP Hip-Hop Unplugged, your children will be in musical bliss. For an even better multicultural experience, check out one of his Sound Museum events where he takes music from across cultures and mixes them with his unique blend of hip-hop. Christylez is dedicated to making songs that you can play for anyone, a dedication he points out in one of the highlights off of his new project “Children Album Gangsta”.
“As a former educator myself, I understand the importance of developing innovative ways to teach and to make a curriculum come alive for every student in the room. I commend you for all the work you’ve done to develop H.E.L.P and make it come alive in classrooms…” – Barack Obama
Now we are coming to the serious educational material. H.E.L.P. (Hip-Hop Educational Literacy Program) is a series of education workbooks based on classic hip-hop songs. The brain child of educator Gabriel Benn (known in the hip-hop world as Asheru form the Unspoken Heard and Boondocks theme song fame), H.E.L.P. is an educational tool that is quickly gaining popularity in the educational circles. Every educator will tell you that teaching their students is easier when they can make it fun and relative to their real life. H.E.L.P. does that on so many levels, using classic songs as conversation starters for subjects from business skills to creative writing. Breaking down the lyrics of hip-hop luminaries from Rakim, Lauryn Hill, KRS-1 and Ludacris can be fun and educational for all ages. The H.E.L.P. series of books makes this process incredibly easy to follow for any teacher, no matter how fluent you are in hip-hop. Check out their website for lesson plans and pricing. Take a look at Gabe explaining how the process works.
“Flocabulary is the single most compelling way to make students understand the power, magic, and musicality of words.” – Dana Kinsey, 11th & 12th grade teacher
Flocabulary is last on this list, but it is probably the most thorough resource of all the ones on here. Started by artist and educators, and updated on a regular basis, Flocabulary gives you music and study material on numerous subjects in every grade level. These lessons are written to make sure teachers cover important standards in ELA (English Language Arts) and math, but students will hardly notice how much learning they are doing as they keep up with the hip-hop energy and creative word play of their professional produced songs and videos. For those who don’t take our word for it when we explain how the arts are great for all educational settings, their work is thoroughly reviewed and scientifically vetted. It is truly an impressive program they are running at Flocabulary, let alone some amazing artistry. Whether you just use their site for their weekly “The Week in Rap” or their dozens of videos that explain all kinds of educational processes like their most popular online video “Five Things (Elements of a Short Story)“. My sons know many of their songs by heart, and use them when they want to remember all types of educational material. Check out one of their many great videos.
I hope you find these resources as helpful as I do. There are hundreds of artists and educators making music for and about our kids. I’ll keep introducing you to them as I come across them in my own artistic/education journey!
I had the pleasure of getting across the Bay bridge and working with students in Dorchester County this past Spring. Ms. Emily Hill did me the honor of publishing a story about it in the local newsletter. I can’t wait to go back next year!
Dorchester County Public Schools
Every Child A Success!
Henry V. Wagner Jr., Ed.D., Superintendent DATE: May 20, 2015 SDS Young Artist Residency Program: BOMANI Visits 3rd, 4th, & 5th Grades
By Emily Hill
Last week, an artist named Bomani visited our class. He came to teach us about how rhyming can help us remember things. We also learned that there are few ways to rhyme! There is a real rhyme, when the last two letters of the words are the same; cat and hat. There is also a near rhyme, when the words or phrases sound very similar but are not the same. For example, we rhymed “patriot” with “hate we get”. Lastly, there is the rhyme when you put the emphasis on the wrong syllable.
We all got to write a few short rhymes so we could completely understand what the different rhymes are and how to use them. As a class, we helped Bomani create a rhyme about himself, and then we each got to create a rhyme about ourselves. Everyone got a chance to share their personal rhyme with the class. Every time someone got up to read, we had to cheer like it was our favorite singer and Bomani made a huge deal about the person reading. We felt really cool and important. It made reading something in front of our friends so much easier!
Our final rhyme was about our social studies unit on the Revolutionary War. We all started by writing a paragraph about what our class had learned. We then organized the rhyme and created a beat for it. After editing and rehearsing it, we performed it for the 4th grade and they performed theirs for us!
After we finished our performance and watched the 4th grades performance, Bomani asked us to describe the week in one word. The words the 4th and 5th graders used were unique and energetic. These words perfectly fit the week. All of the activities were fun and helpful. In addition, the rhyme we made will help us remember facts for the test on the Revolutionary War.
So, yesterday I had the cutest kindergarten girl at an assembly in a private school ask me during the Q&A portion “Did you grow up poor?” and I had a 7th grader at a suburban public school tell me she thought Queen Latifah’s “U.N.I.T.Y.” video was intimidating because the “gang of people” in the streets. Both of them were white. I wasn’t offended at all. I told the kindergarteners that I was from a similar background as her, my parents paid for piano lessons and any other extra-curricular activities I wanted. I explained to the 7th grader, while playing the video back and pausing, that these people were simply in the street having a party.
… Continue Reading
In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
It’s amazing the things people discover by accident. Discovering that my sons where learning the poem that began with those lines was the end of my children’s public education. You see, I don’t pay attention to Columbus Day. Other than wishing there was a hell for him to burn in every October 12th, I could care less about the man and the day dedicated to him. So when I decided to pop in on my sons’ class a year ago today, it was not to make some social political statement about the use of erroneous history in our school systems. I didn’t even realize the date yet. Being self-employed just gave me the luxury to find out how they were adjusting to being in the same class.
We had been trying to keep the twins in different rooms, letting them develop their own personalities and reputations separately. These early years are the most important ones for children to discover themselves. In Pre-K a teacher notoriously said to me “Your son hit Mary during recess”, to which I responded “Which son?” and she answered, “I don’t know, one of them”. I couldn’t believe she had the nerve to say that to me. What was I supposed to do with that information? Was I supposed to punish both of them? My sons are twins, and I don’t expect people who see them on only Thanksgiving and Christmas to tell them apart, but this was their teacher. Their differences are obvious, from the shapes of their faces, their height and build, the sounds of their voices, and their general approach to life.
Here in the 1st grade, they had both tested into the T.A.G. (Talented and Gifted) class, and there was only one of those classes in the school. We could have picked which one was going to stay in the class, to keep them separated, but then that seemed unfair to the one not getting the more rigorous education. Their mom and I aren’t the easiest parents to deal with in the public school system setting. We have our own ideas about what was appropriate for our children, going as far as telling the teacher and principal in kindergarten not to expect our sons to have their homework done all the time. It was just too much, and we planned on letting them just be 5. Our belligerence might have been more bearable if we weren’t so active, but at least twice a month both of us where in the classroom, and Eshe was volunteering so much at the school that she went on field trips with children that weren’t even her own.
So here they were at the beginning of the school year, in the same classroom, with an obviously talented and caring teacher. She was 8 months pregnant when the school year started, and was counting down the days to leave. You could feel it in the air. So when she was replaced by a long term substitute, a retired teacher they brought back for the months the original teacher was on maternity leave, we weren’t upset about it. She was old school. I don’t think she had the energy to have lasted the whole year but she was a loving and determined teacher, giving the kids all she had for the few months she was substituting. On the day I happened to walk into the classroom, she had just started the day’s lesson on Christopher Columbus.
October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!
As an educator myself, I know that the 1492 poem isn’t used in schools any more. At least not used in schools where the parents of the students actually read books like Zinn’s “A People’s History”. Maybe (shoot probably) in places like Texas, where they have replaced the term “slave holders” with “planters” in the history books, they still have their students read fanciful recollections of our countries glorious founding. But in Maryland you won’t find the 1492 poem unless it has been heavily edited to be more factually correct. My sons joined their classmates in working on the handouts the teacher on maternity leave had left. It was pretty much factual. Columbus set sail and landed in the Bahamas. It didn’t go into how much of a mistake it was, maybe just mentioning it. I would have had my students using a thesaurus to find new synonyms for “dumb-ass” to describe Columbus, but I had missed my chance to be the radical teacher. This is the reality we are faced with. This is the education my children are going to receive, and I have to find ways to augment it separately. Then the substitute, in what she thought was a stroke of genius, pulled out the teaching material she had been using her whole career to teach about Columbus. She passed this lie of a poem to every student in the classroom. Me, trying to stay cool and remember the rules of observing a class, waited until she was by herself to tell her that I am positive she is not supposed to use this poem. “It isn’t true” I tell her. “But it rhymes, so it’s easy to remember, and the kids love it!” she says with a smile. I’m a smart ass, with a desire to argue and debate in the marrow of my bones. I have no idea how I was able to let her say that and not respond. She didn’t say “no, it is true” she said “but it rhymes, it’s easy to remember and the kids love it”. I could have had a field day on her ass. That would have made me the angry black radical in her class. I didn’t have time for that.
I pulled Olu and Dela to the side instead, kneeled down real low so I could look them in their eyes, and said “hey guys, you are doing a great job in class today. I just want you to know that this poem about Columbus is bullshit (I’ve taught my sons that curse words should be used sparingly, and to only accentuate an important point) and Columbus was one of the worst people. Ever! We’ll talk about it more later”.
This Columbus Day gaffe strikes extra close to home, and made me feel even more convicted about my initial promise to homeschool my children, because at one point I was training to be a high school history teacher. Back in the 1996, I was a wide eyed freshman at the University of Maryland, who knew deep in his heart all he wanted to be was a teacher. After enrolling in the school of education as a secondary ed and history major, I had all the fanciful dreams of teaching kids the “real” history of America. These dreams came to a screeching halt when I had a conversation in 1997 with one of my frat brothers’ mother who was a teacher. I gave her my pie in the sky reasoning for teaching kids history and she tells me, “you are going to be frustrated your whole career. You won’t be allowed to teach history the way you are imagining it. There is going to be a curriculum and a script you must stick to, and that’s it”. I discovered that being a public school teacher wasn’t for me. I can’t live other people’s inconsistencies. Maybe my own, but being paid to teach children something I didn’t believe would have driven me mad.
“Indians! Indians!” Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.
This sent my young idealistic mind into a tail spin that I have never recovered from. Trust me, my closest friends and the people I admire most are educators. Our nations school system is setup to teach our children “what to think” more than it is “how to think”, but teachers everywhere (especially here in the state of Maryland) are dedicated to giving students comprehension tools and life lessons beyond the facts that are crammed into their heads to pass standardized tests. I have no fear that my children would be okay in the public school system, but my goal for my children is for them to be more than okay. I don’t want my sons to discover the African diaspora, and the world before European domination at a later age. I want them to know the history of where they are from first, and learn this alien system second. Discovering later what it means to be part Cape Verdean, descendants of West Africans, part Native American people of South Carolina, and how these people had their own civilizations before being virtually annihilated by those who followed Columbus, is not the perspective I want for them. Discovering that I had forfeited control of the process was too much for me to handle. Realizing that the school hadn’t even started deifying the slave-holding founding fathers was giving me nightmares.
By some stroke of fate I had stumbled into my children’s class on the right day. But unlike Christopher Columbus, stumbling like a toddler onto the “new world” and destroying it, I discovered my reasons for originally wanting to homeschool. This forced me to rededicate myself to that mission. Homeschooling has not been easy. I am still learning how to balance my business and homeschooling, with homeschooling being the top priority. But I have discovered many resources and a village of people willing to help our children become the people we know they can be. I hope to share more of that in this blog and in my art as we discover new ways to see the world. But today I thank Columbus, well, the teacher who shouldn’t have had my sons read that Columbus poem. It was the discovery I needed.
The first American? No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.
At four o’clock Eshe called me with anger in her voice “I can’t believe the teacher gave them that damn 1492 poem! They had it in their hands when they left the building. I took it out of their hands and ripped it up. I’m sure all the other parents thought I was crazy. I don’t even care! I told them that this wasn’t true and they said ‘I know, Daddy already told us’. Remember when we were talking about homeschooling?”
The first thing I was told I need to do to start homeschooling is to “unschool”. To get out of the idea that lessons and learning have to be in a sterile environment with rote memorization of facts. This seems to be the most fun thing about homeschooling so far, and it’s interesting finding ways to connect our every day actions to standard lesson plans, the scientific method, the engineering process, and “common core” curriculum. That is what we did last week working to discover the perfect vegan waffle. We read books and learned more about reading maps, but this is the most interesting thing we did, so I will let you in on our process.
We were presented with this problem. Olu & Dela love their granddad’s waffles, he makes them at least once a week when we are at his house on Sunday mornings. Unfortunately the boys eczema and other physical problems are exacerbated by dairy. Over the summer they completely cut dairy from their diet (for the millionth and final time) and it cleared up their skin easily. So, how do we enjoy waffles, while maintaining that diet? We decided to experiment with different vegan waffle recipes and see what changes and variations we can make. We found this recipe online. … Continue Reading
I’ve spent my adult life working with young black men, from all economic and social backgrounds, arming them with the rules I have learned to navigate the bi-polar United States that we live in. This world is a complicated matrix of social constructs and unjust laws, a matrix my peers and our elders thought we at least understood (though we haven’t mastered). We knew who the enemy was and how to avoid them. We recognized, painfully, that some were going to be casualties, collateral damage, in this struggle. Some would fall victim to the stray bullet in gang related drive by. Some would have their wallet mysteriously confused for a gun by police. That not withstanding, we knew what neighborhoods to tell them to avoid, what colors not to wear, and how to talk to a badge-carrying officer of the law. This complicated matrix was a math equation we taught in our schools, churches, and after school program. But now, just like “The Matrix” (the popular turn of the millennium movie) this equation we thought we had figured out has an Agent Smith. More accurately, an Agent Zimmerman.
(scroll down to see a performance and music video from Omekongo)
Introduction: Welcome to the even place. My name is Bomani Armah. We are taping my show today called ‘The Indie’. We’re talking about independent thought, independent business, independent art—got one of my favorite independent people sitting here next to me, Mr. Omekongo Dibinga. Say hello to the people.
Omekongo: Hello people, how are you doing?
Bomani: Alright now Omekongo—if you don’t know, you really need to get familiar with this brother. As long as I’ve been doing the music and poetry scene, he has been in it and he has been one of my favorite poets, favorite activist. He’s always on top of some issue where he’s traveling the country and the world talking it through his art form and his motivational speaking. And today we brought him here to talk about a couple of different things. One is his latest video which is “It’s a Girl” which I was actually really proud to be a part of and also the End of Silence Campaign—I see you’ve got the cool t-shirt on there. So, tell us a little bit about yourself. Let’s start from the beginning; who and what does Omekongo Dibingo do?
Omekongo: First of all, thanks for having me on the show.
Bomani: You’re more than welcomed.
Omekongo: For all of you out there, I’m a kid who grew up in Boston Massachusetts, son of Congolese immigrants and I started writing as a tool to escape. I was bullied a lot. People used to pick on us because we’re African. They used to hate on our names—Tarzan references, writing just became my escape. I discovered people like Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni. They were talking about Africa being beautiful so I started memorizing their stuff until I felt mature enough to write my own in the 4th or 5th grade. And from there, I just started writing with one hope. The one hope was that people would hear what I’m saying and stop bullying me, stop picking on me and really be interested in my story. The more I shared, the more they were interested in my story and the more they were to share their story and as they say the rest is history.
I love the metro train. The train loves me back. Worn out carpets with chewing gum polka dots. The Saturday morning train ride is the best. It’s nice and quiet; mostly tourists getting a jump on the National Mall, or the poor guy who can’t believe his manager scheduled him on the weekend. They are traveling live art installations; graffiti played out in between speeding walls. On the outskirts of town trains are empty enough that I can let my sons stand holding the poles in the aisle, as long as they don’t spin around. I used to let them spin around on the poles (something I probably wouldn’t let them do if they were girls…yeah, I know), but now they’re growing faster than my bank account. They need to know that the train is a serious place, where they are no longer the cute little toddlers everyone will love. They will begin to resemble the pre-pubescent troublemakers most of these people have been conditioned to be wary of. People will start clutching their purse and their Ipad. The train, a haven for pseudo predators wanting cheap feels. The train is a mobile sanctuary for overzealous proselytizers. The train is a traveling show of light and brevity, a chance to borrow someone else’s smile, as they push a stroller or play with their commemorative glove from the Nat’s game. This is where your head needs to be on a swivel. Catch the danger. Absorb the sunlight.
The boys decided to play new games and read new books they had just got, so we sat in mid way between doors in one of the blue seats instead of near the poles. They buried their faces in their books as we went from one station to the next. I’m usually a reader or a people watcher on the train, but today I’m busy multi-tasking on my phone. Two stops into our journey I hear a familiar voice from 10 rows behind me.
“Can you help me sir?”
These words were cradled in the worst slurping lisp you’d ever want to hear. I remember this kid. Grown mans deformed body. Teetering in an adult world he wasn’t prepared for.
“Can you help me sir?”
This time he was closer. He had started from the other end of the car and was working his way down. He might have hopped on a few stops ago, and was switching cars on each stop. This time his voice triggered the memories from my days as the idealist newbie on the job. Ignoring the warnings of other teachers and administrators who told me to keep my distance. They told me to be helpful, and nice, but not too friendly with this one because he doesn’t know how to act. This isn’t the first time my idealism stirred with my hard headedness got me mixed into some problems. … Continue Reading
Before there was this thing called Google (and yes, for those 25 and younger there was a pre-Google world), the 10 year old me use to spend hours leafing through encyclopedias. There would be one word or concept I’d hear about on the news or see referenced in a movie or book, and I’d go rushing to the big stack of red books in alphabetical order. There should have been 26 books but there were more like 30 something. Some letters had so many words and concepts that they took two volumes. I would start off researching “gravity”, and after flipping towards the end of the G section it would say “see Isaac Newton”. After sifting through the “I” section (then realizing I needed to be in the “N” section) I’d get to the end of the section on Newton and go back to the part where it discussed Newton’s writing on the Bible, and I’d have to look up “textual criticism” and or “pantheists”. Before you know it I had traveled around the world and back again, all while sitting criss-cross apple-sauce in the extra-bedroom in our house that doubled as the library.
I wonder what my face looked like? There weren’t camera phones, and my parents weren’t creeping around the corner waiting to catch me in a cute moment with their Polaroid. I’m sure my big eyes were lighting up, or my brow was wrinkled as I flipped intensely through volumes of information. I’m sure my jaw dropped one or two hundred times, as I learned the connections between historical figures and events I never knew existed. You can’t fake intellectual curiosity. It’s something all children are born with. It’s what causes human progress in the first place. It does not have to be taught, just drawn out. I want my sons to have the same thrill I had, even more. … Continue Reading
“It didn’t work out with me an your mom
But yo push come to shove
You were conceived in love”
– Will Smith (Just the Two of Us)
If you had told me my night would go like this, being out bowled by not one, but two six year olds, I would have never believed you. But here I was, Bomani Armah, in the middle of a suburban MD bowling alley. 4 year-old birthday parties crescendo into “how old are you!!” to our right. Twenty-somethings on double dates try to alternatively look cool and cute as they bowl to our left. Olu Armah is hurling duck-pin balls at unsuspecting pins like Aung bending fire. The projectile ricochets off of the left bumper, then the right bumper, then lines itself up right down the middle. Dela, his twin brother and partner in crime, is giving vivid play by play of the 45 seconds it takes for this ball to creep down the lane. Dela has already finished his round, scoring a full 1 point more than his Dad. Now, can they do the impossible and take the top two positions of the night? A strike from Olu puts him in 1st place by a healthy margin (considering our scores looked like impressive math test scores, but miserable bowling rounds). The ball didn’t exactly crash into the pins, more like scooted them over impolitely. But fall they did, and we all erupted like Tiger Woods winning the masters. The twenty-somethings flirting to our left, and the gang of pre-k’s and their parents on our right, roared and hi-fived Olu. As the noise quieted, and Dela rushed to reset the game, his mother Eshe Armah hands me a drink. “You suck at this” she says through a laugh. “Yet someone how I’m still 11 points better than you!” I snicker back. Cheers. On to the next round.
I am fortunate, because this is what single parenting looks like at least every other month for me. I’ve seen horrible fights over custody, child support, education, religion, and just residual animosity from failed relationships. Having bitter squabbles in court, and neutral child transfer locations assigned by a judge, was not the reality I had day dreamed about. It is a blessing to not have landed in one of those situations. Wish I could credit myself for that stroke of fortune but my failed marriage has proven I’m not that good at predicting relationships. … Continue Reading
From the first time the Director for The Angle was introduced to Art Enables in 2009, he has been an advocate for this dynamic organization. When the idea that The Angle would have episodes, featuring Art Enables was early on the list to capture. Park Triangle featured the organization a few years back for The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ Video Spotlight. We hope that everyone who views this episode is inspired to visit the Art Enables’s gallery (2204 Rhode Island Ave, NE Washington, DC 20018) where they can find amazing art (at an affordable price) that will make any home or office sparkle.
Max Poznerzon painting an octopus.
(From the Art Enables Website) In the Nation’s Capitol, a studio and gallery for emerging artists with developmental disabilities. Their chance to make art comes through Art Enables. Their reasons for doing it are their own: to have something to do, to make money, to feel important, to tell the world who they are, to become famous. All those reasons and more.
Very often people with developmental disabilities are better able to express themselves in images than in words. Art Enables is focused on just such a group: thirty-some artists whose disabilities include but are not limited to Down syndrome, autism, traumatic brain injury, bipolar disorder. Their ages range from 24 to 72. They are African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, Arab.
Art Enables gives them the resources and supports they need to become visual artists. Their artwork is exhibited and sold at the studio, at host venues and via the web site. They earn 60% of revenue from sales. They have a chance to tell their stories, and they find people eager to listen.
Have you ever walked into a room full of 20 suburban white kids from a church youth group and said “Hey, let’s write a hip-hop song!”? No? You don’t know what you’re missing. For the past year I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with organizations in a new 2 hour song writing workshop I’ve developed, that takes the mission statements and learning experiences of young people, and explore it through the lens of hip-hop rhymes.
Why a song? It has all the educational affects of a 5 paragraph essay, with 800% more fun and a million times more memorable (give or take a couple hundred percent, my math can be fishy). When it comes to writing rhymes in my class there only a few simple guide lines. First and foremost, the only wrong answer is a blank answer. This is creative writing, a statement of each participants personal opinion and perspective. To be successful in this class you just need to have opinions and perspectives, and be willing to write them down. If that doesn’t prod the students into writing (and it almost always does), the next guideline does. Mispronunciation and bad grammar are encouraged! To … Continue Reading
I had a wonderful time doing my “Reading, Rhyming & Rhythm” workshop with the 4-6 year old students at the Capital Hill Day School Yoga Camp. That’s right, yoga for the little ones. I didn’t think that was possible at first, considering how much radioactive energy emanates from a 5 year old. But the truth is, their reality is so malleable at this point. Any challenge you give them, or revelation you point them towards is much more than a possibility. It is actually just a reality waiting to happen. Reading On After Zebra for the students at Capital Hill Day School was the highlight of my week. … Continue Reading
“Mommy, I’m not black. I’m white like Maya”, is what my 5 year old son said standing at the base of the Martin Luther King Jr. monument. His mother had just given him the cliff notes explanation of the civil rights movement. “Why is that?” his mom asked. “Because if they are going to beat me up for going to a restaurant, I don’t want to be black”.
I laughed when she told me this story, and then had a follow up conversation with both of my kids about what was beautiful about being black. It was easy reiterating what their mother said, that what had happened to freedom riders, protesters and sit-in participants was a thing of the past. That it was great to be proud of the color of your skin whether it was dark like Grandmother Barbara Jean and my whole side of the family from South Carolina, or like Maya (my sons name for their maternal grandmother) and her family from Cape Verde (and for the record she is black, she’ll fight you tooth and nail if you tell her otherwise). His mom and I both had proud moments of self satisfaction and thankfulness about everything Dr. King and the millions of us, black and white, that have created a world where my children don’t have to worry about the color of their skin. That is what I thought the teachable moment was. But now, after being obsessed with this Trayvon Martin case, I’m not sure if I was telling him the truth anymore. … Continue Reading
Tariiq Omari Walton invited me to be a guest on his CTV talk show Views & Vibes a few weeks ago as they discussed the importance of arts education in the current educational environment that is constantly devaluing and de-funding arts. Other guests panelists, Ms. Patricia Cruze (the Education Director for Young Audiences), and Ms. DaKiya Lambert (the Artistic Director for Dance Dimensions) did outstanding jobs discussing this subject. Read after the break to see more about their great organizations dedicated to bringing art to young people!
As an educator, artist and father, I am glad to see so many responsible adults express genuine concern about the reunion of Chris Brown and Rihanna (even if only artistically) and the affect it is going to have on young people’s perception of a healthy relationship. That said, I’m personally disappointed at how many people think there are absolutes when it comes to any romantic relationships, and that they know enough about Chris and Rihanna’s to tell them what those absolutes are. But those thoughts are for relationship blogs. This is more of a civil rights era style call to action, but with 2012 guerrilla tactics. Think about it, is our best strategy for raising children, with strong self esteem and healthy decision making skills, to beg multi-billion dollar media corporations to “pretty please” represent us better? In the end, protesting art that we don’t like is not the same as promoting the art that we do like. The question isn’t what message Rihanna is sending little girls, or Chris Brown sending little boys. The question is, what message are you sending our children. In the spirit of fighting new wars with new tactics, we must begin a #BUYcott.
The simplest statement,
spoken from the heart,
is more profound
I fixed a four year olds favorite toy
With little more then the flick of a button
He looked me in my eyes
And smiled like he was opening a birthday present
postmarked from heaven
“wow daddy, u r superman batman!”.
This little vessel with limited life lived
And an inkling of a vocabulary
Wanted me to know I was greater then any super hero he could fathom