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Thinking About You “futuristically speaking”

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I was thinking about you all week… thinking about how in just a month and 11 days we have gotten acquainted to winter, and introduced to the year 2019. Although there is much debate about rather or not January should “rep” the 1st Month of a new year, or if we are better off being in tune with nature seeing that new birth, new life aka Spring has naturally always been the beginning of anew? Well that is a whole other matter, so on to the future.

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On the subject of rebirth, I was thinking about the current state of Theatre. Actually performing arts in general, and how reachable we are to the masses. Wondering if there is a demand and how to measure that demand, so we can cater to it? How to engage the youth and maintain our audience especially as it relates to African’s on the continent and throughout the diaspora? I have been thinking about this for a long while, because without you there is no purpose to art. It would become merely a thing to talk about, rather than participate in. Without this outlet we would become souless un spirited people pods. Can I get an Ase?

In 2016 I believed something out of the ordinary in my local area needed to happen. There needed to be an attacment of my hometown of Cincinnati OH to a world, bigger than itself. To be connected to a culture larger cities like NYC USA, Kumasi Ghana, Cape Town South Africa, Kingston Jamaica, and Rio Brazil embrace. The particular art form I speak of is known as Street Theatre, where the concept of flash mobs, mannequin challenges, ect came from. I learned of this exciting world as a college student, attracted to a dance class deeply rooted in the traditions of my people, but something that unfortunately wasn’t passed down to me via family tradition. This world of African Dance was new to me and opened my mind. My mindset went from assuming that there was nothing outside of my City that I couldn’t find within it. A belief that there was no reason to venture off. To a open mind willing to explore, outside of my box.

Allow me to explain a little about my experience in dance; it started at home, I would watch the floor performances of gymnastics Olympians, ice skaters, tap dancers in films, and movies with character that broke into spontaneous song and dance, and of course music videos on my TV. Go ahead and admit it, back in the 80’s and 90’s we were introduced to the world via television. I believed with my heart of hearts that I could do what they did and better. At 5 y.o. I was given my chance to show what I could do, in an audition to attend the Cincinnati School of Creative and  Performing Arts. I was rejected and believed it to be the ending of a professional life of dance *tears*. Dreams shattered, until my Mom signed me up for drill team. Which gave me the courage to participate in backyard dance parties and talent shows. A competitive side of dance seemed more soothing, it made it possible to go in head first and show that I was hungry & determined, to perfect my craft. I was active in church and elementary school choir, middle school cheerleading, H.S. Fine Arts Club and our many Black History performances, and College Theatre and Dance courses.

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Throughout this journey I was still believed there were limits. While enrolling in Theatre courses I came across an elective class available for those who had at least 6 credit hours of dance, being that I was still intimidated to major in Dance. I did find my way to take classes offered that were not for advance dancers. Then there was African Dance class! Which quickly erased the idea of limitations, we were taught, from the begining to embrace the traditions of our culture and to be proud of what we have been able to create. Inspite of our history being being stolen, our ancestors forced into captivity, our traditions demonized by our oppressors. I was reunited to my roots, so it didn’t take long before I was on a plane to Ghana, dancing my way into a limitedless culture of open opportunity and ingenuity. My futured looked promising!

Now back to you, & how you (my fellow Beings) have been so heavy on my heart. A performer that acknowledges the cure to oppression, depression, negative esteem, pollution/waste, fear, hate, and loneliness knows that it begins with cultural understanding. One of the ways to connect folks to that cure is through the arts. In order to ensure that connection we have to give the masses a place to sort this all out, and regain their power. We refuse to subject our audience to mere entertainment. We will do our best not to disappoint our viewers when they realize that the behind the scenes work in our productions will never replace the power of the observer. W.A.R. Theatre has been inspired by the works of, Octavia Butler, Dr. Darryl Harris Theatre Dept professor @ Northern Kentucky University, The Theatre Development project out of Ghana West Afrika at the University of Cape Coast, Augusto Boal’s writings in Theatre of the Oppressed, the productions of Theatre for Living, and an impressive list of Afrofuturistic writers, filmmakers, and visual artists. There are so many ways to go about presenting a performance that engages the observer and turns them into an active part the production. We hope that our upcoming web-series “The Pride” will be an additional kickoff toward a revolutionary way of Inter-gal-Acting! We are determined to offer our participants a future, a platform to address issues to prevent us from continuing down a dangerous path of destruction. The images they see in our production will be a reflection of their future selves, a place void stagnation.

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There is much to be done. I hope you (my readers) will realize the power you posses. You are the true captain of this voyage, and the Commander in Chief of this life mission, to a better future through art. I am thinking only of you, because without you our Art form has no heartbeat (Afrofuturistically Speaking)!

 

 

African Liberation: How Will We Get There?

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Revolutionary Greetings readers, we are in the thick of Spring’s May flowers! We are recognizing the life and legacy of Omowale (“the son who has come home”)/ El Hajj Malik EL Shabazz also known as Malcolm X, and will be celebrating Afrikan Liberation Day in Cincinnati OH on the 25th and throughout this month within the Black Nationalist community. We will ponder on “How  Will We Get There?” Specifically how will we collectively obtain Afrikan Liberation?

On May 18th 2019 a Town Hall Meeting on Reparations asked  the question to an audience of about 20 and a panel of four community liaisons; “Should Amerikkka Pay?” Our beloved Shining Prince Baba Omowale aka Malcolm X stated at the 1st Afrikan Liberation Day also known as Afrikan Freedom Day  April 15th 1959 in Harlem NY;

“Only after agreeing who the common enemy is could our darker Brothers unite against him and make faster strides toward freedom.” Source rastafari.tv

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Many don’t won’t to admit who the common enemy is, and the atrocities committed historically on Black/Afrikan people worldwide. Making the efforts for justice and reparations difficult. So this rightfully brings us back to the question of Liberation for Black/Afrikan’s world wide; “How?”

Malcolm X At The 1st Afrikan Liberation Day in Harlem  

Storytelling has been a tradition in many cultures, as a means to inspire youth, pass down the history of their people, and give guidance in times of peril. Imagine a people who no longer remember those stories and are forced to use a doctrine taught to them by the very people that damned them to a lifetime of enslavement. Do you consider their future bleak, hopeless, doomed, or destined for failure? If so, consider Denmark Vesey, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Queen Nanny of the Jamaican Maroons, Ida B Wells etc… Black/Afrikan People in Amerikkka who resisted oppression and inspired their people to demand their liberation and the liberation of Black/Afikan people everywhere.

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This generation has the same abilities within, they are feed up and want more for themselves and their people. They are the how, and can be reached via music, movies, comedy, and the spoken word. This month take the time to reflect on the future and begin preparing for a new world free of oppression and injustice. Believe that we will get it right this time around, that we will get there together, rather the oppressive forces relent willing or unwillingly. Uhuru Sasa (Freedom Now)

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The Black Fiction Review pt. II

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My most favorite season is approaching us. A season that represents Re- Birth, Re-Newel, Rejuvenation. I can feel the change occurring and to be honest “Change” can be down right frightening. Regardless the unknown has a way of bringing out the worse and best of nature. With that said, it is appropriate to introduce a beautiful storyteller whom deserves to be brought before our Blacktastic readers.

Her name is Jamila D. Smith, a native of Massachusetts & Indiana. She is a Contemporary Fiction writer, educator, youth counselor, traveler & a published author of now three books; Sprouting Seeds (2008), Runnaways (2010) & Cyndi (2014) 

Click here to learn more about Jamila D. Smith (Contemporary Fiction)

I had the privilege of meeting her through a mutual acquaintance. Immediately I thought WOW, the Black community is saturated with such untapped talent! We had a nice chat, and exchanged information. I looked her up and found out there is much more to this creators story, then  what she so humbly shared. She was very mysterious, and I could tell she had a lot of pint-up creative expression awaiting the opportunity to explode. After a few exchanges via chat she informed me of an upcoming book signing, (nothing is more valuable than a autographed copy of a creators creation). I jumped at the opportunity, and purchased her first published book Spouting Seeds & let me tell you… I am NOT disappointed!

Out of excitement and curiosity, I dove into the book as soon as I got home. You see I have been working toward reaching my 100 book in a year goal. At that time I had a list of books that were to be read before opening her book, but I just couldn’t wait! I have to admit I was captivated enough to drop my Rivers Solomon read An Unkindness of Ghosts (which was spectacular) and finish her book in one sitting. I have a habit of reading multiple books at a time, but this time I only focused on Spouting Seeds. Sadly I had to return the other book in to the library, without finishing it, “Could you imagine the horror?” This is in deed a complaint to Jamila’s piece, being that she threw off my reading schedule, “Gee Thanks Jamila!”

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Her story began with a conversation between an Elder and her great-grand child, bridging the generational gaps that exists in many of our families. A story of birth rite, tragedy and triumph. One that even two weeks later resonates with me educing our the deep dark secrets that are often buried for the purpose of never coming to the surface. This book was not only intriguing, but brutally truthful. It is amazing how fiction can open ones mind to think about the complexities of reality. How these imagined truths refresh solvable perspectives. Thank you Jamila D. Smith for writing this amazing piece, I encourage my readers will indulge. Also don’t forget to check out her other publications:

W.A.R. Theatre is a solution based project, taking the grimy under the rug residue that fester within our community exposing it to the masses. A forum of Problem Solving Theatrics that repackages unresolved issues that cause dis-empowerment. Redistributing said power among the people. Jamila’s Sprouting Seeds will go on my shelf of soul-searching reads.  We should read, experience visual art exhibits & plays, watch movies, and engage in conversation that encourage action, and this book will attract those who do. Human caused issues/problems can and should be resolve by those that are directly affected. Rather than relying on outsiders, we will prove to be our own gatekeepers. I have a huge amount a faith in all of us.

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Until next time, our up coming Black Fiction review will be focusing on Afro-futurism, you don’t want to miss out, so tell others and please share your comments bellow.

 

 

 

 

Interview with Filmmaker Akosua Akoben — Midwest Black Speculative Fiction Alliance

Filmmaker Akosua Akoben found a new love in film production, and plans to produce several webseries and multimedia productions. Part of her webseries, The Pride, will screen at our “What Does the Future Look Like?” program on Feb. 23! We recently talked to her about her interest in science fiction and Afrofuturism and her webseries, […]

via Interview with Filmmaker Akosua Akoben — Midwest Black Speculative Fiction Alliance

“Black Fiction Book Review”

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There is nothing more satisfying then indulging ones self in a good book, and sharing what you’ve gained from that experience. I live for goodreads.com , libraries, and book club, a love that has gone on since my scholastic readers club days in Elementary School.

My Love affair with Black Fiction and Sci Fi came from Octavia Butler in my college years. I replaced time spent in the gym and computer lab, with short walks from my apartment to my local library, over time possessing library cards from four different counties! Before Octavia I experienced Zora, Wright, Sista Souljah, Hopkinson, Morrison, Dickey, and currently McFadden!  Those were just a few of the Black Fiction authors I explored. If only you knew the fantastic world  that exists inside my head.

With all of these enlightening, soul inspiring works of literature, coursing through my blood, I feel obligated to share with you. My goodreads group, “Literary fiction by People of Color” will complete reading and discuss the book entitled Praise Song  for the Butterflies By Bernice L. McFadden on Feb 1st! The reason this is so exciting is because I haven’t participated in this group for at least four years, sadly I haven’t been able to complete and entire fiction book since then, my goodreads bookshelf is evidence of this.  Well, I’M BAACK!!! I have a stack of unfinished books sitting around that I could actually help me reach my reading goal of 100 books in 2019! With all of that said I will do my best to share this adventure with those that care to follow. Maybe we can share more amazing reads and inspire one another to write!

I will waste no more of your time, lets delve into the beautiful work of McFadden’s Praise Song… (I promise there will be “NO SPOILERS HERE”, so read on)

We are introduced to Abeo Kata and her loving family, in an upper-class neighborhood in the fictional West African country of Ukembe. We are reminded that although Ukembe has a history of colonization very similar to recently liberated African Countries, they as well have shared African traditions, that existed long before. Some consider certain rituals oppressive, and are working to outlaw them. The practice of focus in this book is Trokosi also known as Ritual servitude 

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McFadden does an excellent job of addressing a religious practice and the politics behind with a compassionate heart void her personal views. The reader can make a choice and become an advocate. I would love for you to make this your next read, I am anxious to hear your perspectives.

Although Abeo shows us her deepest darkest most intimate feelings throughout, it is amazing how you can relate to her growth as a person, and still have no idea what she will do next. The feeling of hopelessness can become another strong emotion, and than as quickly leave you feeling empowered. McFadden helped me to feel connected to Abeo in away I have never connected to a character, she has become my friend, my Sister, my daughter, and a part of my consciousness.

Just as connected I have become with Abeo, I can also feel a connection to all of the other characters in this book from the other children at the Shrine, her Mother and Aunts, her New York family, even her father. This may be a hard read for Brotha’s, actually men in general. It does have a scent of feminism and male emasculation. I can see where someone could mistake this read as a gender power struggle. If that is what one focuses on in this book then they will miss the metamorphosis from slavery to liberation! The title of this book says it all.

 

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“What I’m Feel’n”

So today I was sitting in my local library after my son and I return some DVD’s and checked out some more art books. After reading some posts on FB I realize that there is nothing I would like more than to be in my own segregated community and just enjoy my life. I know that seems unfair to those that may be reading this entry but I am being honest.

This library I am sitting in at the moment has activities that are hosted by the staff and patrons and I think about getting involved but then I remember how awkward I would feel in a sea of White Folks, just trying to enjoy a program that could be useful for my son and I. Soon after thinking this my phone rings. Its my husband, a call I had been waiting on, to determine how long my son and I will be staying at our local library, since it gets dark after 5:30 pm. I didn’t want to leave my son to go outside to take the call so I lowered my voice and talked with my husband assuming it would be a brief call.

None the less the call went on longer than I expected and I couldn’t understand why the reception was so loud. A librarian came by to ask me to take my phone from speaker phone but I had to prove to her that my phone was not. I was very uncomfortable and a little angry. Although I am sure that the library computer section is not a place for phone calls. I am also aware of the very loud conversations that take place on the regular around me all the time, and not once have I witnessed any one being told to quiet down. I can’t help but to feel targeted and that the staff may have been waiting for the opportunity to come and put me in my place.

I know that there are rules to be followed and I have no problem with following said rules, but some where deep inside I felt a form of resistance. I felt like I was under attack. I couldn’t help but to feel as if this small incident was really part of something much bigger, and not just my imagination. So I have come to believe that I need to be with my own, and around like minds. That is the only solution I can come to. This is of course not possible at this time, because there aren’t many options and for some reason social media has made it impossible for people to actually get together because we have become virtually socialized. This has me feeling a bit trapped and insecure.

Consider the fight Dr. King had on his hands when he was alive, the fact that he was trying to negotiate with people who didn’t want him to sit near them in restaurants, on buses, in class rooms, hospitals or even on the same side walk. I understand the feeling of  just wanting to live in peace, regardless of where one is. To just be left alone and not intimidated.

I think we had it all wrong from the start, of course one knows when they are unwelcome, no matter how many laws are passed. To have the freedom to go any where you please, and to feel safe and sound may seem unrealistic, but that is what I an most people desire. Excuse my rant but this was on my mind today due to all of the mis information about what Dr. King stood for, and the political side of things. Sometimes people just want to be…

As We Remember A King…

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Today Monday, January 21st 2019 we will again remember the life of a King, the honorable Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. The irony is that, this is now a Federal Holiday where workers are given a paid day off, while some federal workers have been denied there paychecks under a foregoing Government Shutdown. While congress, and the countries president determine how they will pay for a wall that will further divide us from a neighboring country, who hope to come and have access to livable wages to take care of their families, many are worried about bills going unpaid and dinner tables without food.

 

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Think of the many who have since transitioned, after fighting for rights that every human being should have naturally. Have they fought in vain? Are we still having this conversation today because the worlds wealthy refuse to spread the wealth? Are we as humans beings unreasonable in our demands for a chance at a decent life with out, oppressive laws and trigger happy police? Have we failed? Can we get this right?

There are many issues to ponder as we remember the life and murder of a King, a man who had a family. A man who like many worked hard to protect his family and his community. A many who like most of us hoped to see a brighter future for his children.

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We ask that instead of just pondering these issues, that you use the talents you were gifted upon your birth to step up and join us on this battle field. I know this sounds risky but in a W.A.R. there are casualties and your silence will not protect you. So we ask, what are you going to do?

Quietly Ambitious

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