Category Archives: dancers

the artist and the endless nights

One of the roles of the artist is to re-create life’s perception within a societal context. Some say the conditions of the moment define the creation of art through political, cultural and religious/philosophical terms. With that, there will always be an audience for our voices, so why do we torture ourselves with endless edits and insecurities of not being artistically accepted?

So many of us sit surrounded by genius pieces of art inspired by our immediate communities. Award winning poems and best selling novels. We have garage spaces and storage units full of paintings and sculptures that depict an opulence of emotions. And the fear of our vulnerability being labeled as weak disables us from sharing. And the masses of our culture in the states does not support our profession so we get a “regular job”. And turn our passion into a past time or extra way to make money.

Everyday of the week. In every situation in life. The individual in the position to persuade or that perceived the story will always have an audience that understands and supports them. As artists, we have to identify when in our lives we began to believe no one would appreciate our art and stop this. Because no matter what the discourse is from the expression, it will be perceived by someone that understands and folds our endless nights.

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to the open doors

Many people who say they want their work, writings, critiqued really don’t.  They just want to include your stamp of approval on it.  They want to include you in their circle of same friends, same crowds and same stages where they receive recycled applause.  Unfortunately this will keep them exactly where they are, using their art as a part time hobby and working someone else’s dream full time.

The only thing safe in this game is your vision.  What you ultimately want your work to be regarded as or categorized as.  The voice or narrative you want to represent is the only thing you can control. But that is the opportunity with most writers.  They don’t know who/why they are writing.  It’s as if everyone is falling into the “I write for therapy” “I do this for me” reasonings.  I don’t believe that.  In fact, you will have a hard time trying to convince me of this.  What I do believe is that due to a lack of reading and developing of worth or value for oneself a lot of writers cannot express why this art form has become so tangibly easy for them.

Before I could perform on stage or even write my own work, it was required that I read and memorize the literary greats that had come before me.  I had to memorize and know the works of Gwendolyn Brooks, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, etc BEFORE I was allowed to share my own work.  These were my dues so to speak.  I am finding that nowadays writers are simply encouraged to write and express.  “Write what you feel and then get on stage and kill it!” There is no base, no foundation.  Just quickly constructed brick walls and rubber windows.  Then artists stand hostage inside defending everything they write or perform.

Specifically poets often ask me how to be a full time artist.  I always ask them to identify another poet who is working FT in their craft.  Some of the usual responses are Saul Williams and Nikki Giovanni.  Well, Saul lives in Europe and makes an incredibly living from his music and Giovanni is an educator and speaker in addition to poet.  So I ask them to give me someone else they could contact to be a mentor for their poetry career that ONLY does poetry.  I am still waiting on responses from the majority of them.  See, this art thing is medicinal.  It is not an individual thing.  If your mantra is, “I do this for me” you’re on a paved road, a safe path with lots of company and acceptance.  Not the wild road to discovery with silent strange faces and a million “no” responses. With that being said, poetry cannot be isolated.  Poetry is the word.  Poetry is the color of the sound.  Poetry is the taste of the wind. Poetry is an integral part of the seven sciences connecting to “it all”.  This understanding is how FT artists sustain.

I don’t know any FT artists who at some point do not incorporate education into their lifestyle as a workshop facilitator or speaker.  But what are they talking about?  They are talking about that base and foundation from which they developed their art from.  They are protecting the vision, establishing the livelihood of their narrative.  They are doing something most poets/writers cannot do these days.

So what are you saying?  I’m saying, you need to read twice as much as you write.  You need to study.  You need to know your art form and the cause behind it better than anyone else.  You must let go of the criticism that will come with your art and be more concerned with the status of the people holding together the foundation.  With that knowledge will bring a security and confidence that will open doors and opportunities to you as a writer/poet.

 

 

just cause it’s Nikki Giovanni

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Happy Birthday Katherine Dunham!

katherine dunham

Katherine Dunham was a dancer, choreographer, social activist and educator. She had a successful dance career domestically and internationally during the 20th century. She is known as the “matriarch and queen mother of black dance.” Dunham also maintained her own dance company for 30 years, the only self supported African American dance troupe during the 1940’s and 1950’s.

A trail blazer! How will you be re-membered?

I come from that good stuff

that stuff that dreamed. my generation had one of the highest high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates. we were at the cusp of technology. the apex of video games (Atari) and cable television. I remember when “God Bless America” played on the television channel before the network would turn off for the night. I’m from that old school learning of patience and manners being taught by everyone. I remember the bad kids being “paddled” in the principal’s office. I remember how long it took to dial a phone number on a rotary phone. (especially if they had 9’s or 0’s in their number!)

I come from that good stuff of after school programs and free summer programs at the local boys club or ymca. I come from organized marching drill teams and family reunions every year. I come from a grandmamma that got on her knees every night to pray. a family that knew how to hunt and fish for food.

I come from being nurtured to dream. a schooling with arts integration. that culminated in my generation being so inspired and viciously ambitious. we were provided an outlet to create, imagine and dream.

not so much for our kids now. they call them the “microwave kids”. they don’t have to go to the library. they don’t even have to go outside to play or talk with one another. they can do everything via internet and online gaming. now the arts are a privilege for those that can afford it. and that is the impression most have.

the impression is dancers come from wealthy families that can afford for them to train for years. and writers were all left family trust funds so they can sit around and stare out of windows while they write best sellers. the impression is theatre actors are funded by their wealthy family members that sit on the board of trustees for the winter and spring programming. art is viewed as unattainable. the absence of art has our children where they are today.

they are at a lose for individuality. they are born in a box of selections for a career. collectively our communities have shun anything outside of our “safe boxes”. the boxes created to keep us from being murdered or kidnapped or lynched. yes, we still battle that psychological warfare. my dreams were “I could be anything I wanted” and I was presented various platforms to fail and succeed. now our children are told, “you can be anything you want but..” and they aren’t given a safe place to test it out. after so many failures accompanied by laughs and “I told you so’s” from their peers, it is easier for them to stop. and to save their esteem we allow it.

arts is integrated in all studies at school. I believe it is strategic that it has been removed from public schooling and community centers. too many close calls of that next generation connecting their oneness inside of themselves. what if our children figured that out? they would become genius and critical thinkers and seek to remedy all their ills. they would then be from that good stuff like I come from.

God help us. Ancestors guide.