Thursday, June 25, 2009

janelle monae

I must say I feel honored to be a part of the generation that Janelle Monae is from, well kind of I think she might be a little older. But I guess it's a commonality that I'd like to think we have....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

sincerely jane

I am counting down the days until Seattle's Music festival, Bumpershoot! Janelle Monae will be taking the stage on Monday!!! :)

Anyway, I always appreciate it when an artist shares the story behind the creation and meaning of their art, bringing it to life.

Below is an excerpt from an interview on NPR with Janelle Monae about the making of Sincerely Jane. (youtube of the song below)

it was a letter written to me from my mother, I had left Kansas, I grew up in one of the poorest county's in Kansas, at an early age I was exposed to those around me who had gone to really dark places in their lives because of drugs. One of the lines that I written "are we really living or just walking dead?" and that's just a question that i've asked myself and challenged people in my life to ask themselves too.

We wanted to make the french horn cry, because the letter was so touchy. when people actually listened to it, we wanted them to hear those french horns crying, the strings pleaing, and with my voice, I wanted to touch the corners of their heart for more.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Crips and Bloods, made in America

Last night, the "Break the Silence" folks, went to a documentary screening of Crips and Bloods, Made in America at the Langston Hughes performing arts center. This documentary received a lot of national attention. It's narrarated by Forest Whitaker and one of the producers of the film is Baron Davis, a former(?) NBA star who grew up in LA.

This was an incredibly informing and beautifully moving documentary. It begins with exploring the ways that the legacy of slavery in this country kind of provided a historical context for the role racism plays in gang violence. Then it provides a long timeline of gangs in LA, the rise and fall of gang violence and different factors that contributed to the rise and fall (civil rights movement, neighborhood ordinances that contributed to racial segregation that kept people of color in ghettos, lack of resources for extra curricular activities for the youth in these communitites, etc.) It definitely explored police brutality, and how when a group of people are continually being treated like they are worthless by those that are supposed to protect your community, a message becomes instilled in your mind about your own worth, and you then become "an instrument of your own oppression." (There was a really awesome quote someone they interviewed had said about that, but I can't remember it, just the last part which i quoted)

Overall I really appreciated the documentary, and I feel like as a community member, we are fed by the media images and perceptions of what gang violence is. Often simplifying this issue as something isolated, something that's happening now, disconnected from the past, sensationalizing the issue that the youth are "out of control and violent." etc. The more who see this documentary the better.

However, there is definitely an entire conversation missing from this documentary, an issue that the documentary completely over looked, which was kind of a disappointment. The documentary was definitely from a male perspective, with out acknowledging the different ways that gang violence might impact women and young girls in these communities. While I understand that gang violence for males and females is an entirely different experience, and so to focus on the male perspective in some way can make sense, but this should at least be acknowledged , and it wasn't, which made it seem like when discussing gang violence it would be expected for there to be a focus on the male perspective, making the female perspective invisible, forgotten and ultimately unimportant.

Through the documentary they interview current/former crips and bloods (who are all men except for a 5 sec comment by a young women who was a former gang member), asking all sorts of questions about their experiences. One question asks about their home life and there is definitely a pattern of a single mother home, and feelings of being un loved by her. One interviewee mentioned watching his father "beat the shit" out of his mother... then it moves onto the experiences of the mothers who lost their sons, not really exploring the violence that might be prevalent in their lives. Or the violence in the lives of the young girls who live in these communities, and how the male gang members perpetuate violence onto the young females in their communitites through sexualized violence like domestic violence or rape. And how many of these young single mothers are survivors of this kind of violence and how might it affect the home environment where they raise their sons, only continuing a cycle of violence.

Anyway, I think youtube's site is down, but when it's up and working again I'll post a trailer of the film or something.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mos Def - Quiet Dog

From his most recently released album "The Ecstatic"

Theophilus London...

SABALI (GREYXSAGE) Live at Webster Hall from Theophilus London on Vimeo.

Please come to Seattle ... or Portland or Vancouver..

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

the model minority myth

Nicholas D. Kristof. Well known for his Sunday OP-ED Column in the NY times where he usually writes about a social and/or economic problem in third world countries. He has focused a lot on the sex trafficking industry I think he's actually pretty well known for bringing national attention to the sex trafficking industry through his blog. I think Hilary Clinton even used Kristof's blog for something... I tried looking for it. But there's a research paper that's waiting to be researched.. so maybe I'll insert some links after I have a little more time to look around...

Oh and his blog is featured as one of our links on the side. I read his blog a lot in the winter just cause we were working on the conference so I was kind of more engaged in issues about sex trafficking. Well for one of my research papers I'm actually going to focus on the sex trafficking industry, so I thought a starting point would be to check out Nicholas Kristof's blog, especially since I haven't checked out his blog in awhile... so I was a bit caught off guard when reading this in his most recent entry.

My Sunday column looks at three groups that have been unusually successful in the United States — Asian Americans, Jews and West Indians. Read the column, but in a nutshell it argues that they have succeeded in part because of an emphasis on diligence and education.

I think it's obvious what I was kind of surprised by, so of course, before I jumped to any conclusions with the hopes that Kristof and all the work he does in third world countries he would be a little bit aware of the ways the model minority myth actually functions as a stereotype which places a lot of limitations on asian americans. why does kristof racialize asian americans but for the other groups of people discussed, they are identified with their ethnic identities... but anyway, so I clicked on the link to his Sunday column.. and was, ...disappointed. Maybe it was cause based on the excerpt above I sort of made up my mind about what his sunday column was going to be like, so I was unable to read it in an unbiased manner. However, I guess I'll lay it down about what I think about it and then you can make up your mind yourself.

Firstly, I get the purpose of his Sunday Column (I think), it seems like he wants to reiterate the idea that education is the solution to a lot of our societal problems both here in the U.S. and in third world countries. So he gives examples of three groups of people that have made it in the U.S., especially, he emphasizes, due to their cultural focus on education (with no mention about economic advantages). Overall though I feel like the entire article carries a bunch of implications about who the article is targeted to (minorities who aren't making it.) There is a strong focus on behaviorial factors that might have been culturally influenced, although these "behaviors" are the reasons why these groups have made it. I mean I think it's especially interesting that there is no mention of the economic factors that play into some of the successes of these groups. I will offer some quotes that show this:

One large study followed a group of Chinese-Americans who initially did slightly worse on the verbal portion of I.Q. tests than other Americans and the same on math portions. But beginning in grade school, the Chinese outperformed their peers, apparently because they worked harder.

A common thread among these three groups may be an emphasis on diligence or education, perhaps linked in part to an immigrant drive.

Among West Indians, the crucial factors for success seem twofold: the classic diligence and hard work associated with immigrants, and intact families. The upshot is higher family incomes and fathers more involved in child-rearing.

and on a quick side note, I dont really understand why in the beginning of the column, and in his little blog entry about the column, he uses "asian americans" as an identfier when he's actually strictly talking about Chinese Americans. I mean, when discussing Asian Americans, Chinese Americans are the only ethnic group he cites in his article. How did Asian Americans become Chinese Americans? where as the west indians and jews remain west indians and jews throughout the article??... I know being "politically correct" can get annoying and pointless, but I think language matter. I think Kristof's slip of using Asian Americans when he really meant Chinese Americans, or East Asians contributes to the stereotype that Asian Americans in the U.S. are of a similar experience. He is somewhat on point in talking about China's history in confucianism, a lot of East Asian countries share this history, but definitely not all asian countries.. I actually don't know that much about Asian history though..

But I mean aside with the issue of language and stereotyping, Kristof definitely picked three minority groups to focus on, but that is not how he frames his article. He simply states:

In the mosaic of America, three groups that have been unusually successful...

So he just says, three groups, but the three groups are minorities, well I mean it's arguable about whether or not Jews are minorities, maybe more so 2 of the three groups are racial minorities. Just cause there is a focus on racial minorities, as the reader, I can't help but assume that there are some implications with that. I mean why not cite why white people are successful. Kristof says that Asians take up 20% of the student population at Harvard, who's the 80%, white people probably...

There's just a harmful stereotype that perpetuates cycles of poverty within communities of color, which is the whole work hard ethic thing which blames those in poverty for their problems. This overlooks a lot of factors that can play into one's life, esp. societal factors. So in reading this article, besides the obvious problems with the ways he used the "asian americans" when he's really just talking about "chinese americans,"... I'm just worried about the reeeeaaalllly subtle implications this article suggests about ppl of color who haven't made it, and still aren't making it. .....

Anyway, I'm just creating tangents. The main point is, Nicholas Kristof should stick with issues of the third world.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

day dreaming

Lupe Fiasco feat. Jill Scott- Day dream, this was the song that started a very long and committed relationship for me with both artists, Lupe Fiasco and Jill Scott. Lupe Fiasco is definitely by far one of my favorite hip hop artist. Since then my music taste has broadened a little bit and shifted, but these two remain classics in my itunes alongside alicia keys, gnarls barkley, erykah badu, cunninlynguists (regrettably), India Arie, John Legend, etc. I know I was a little late in the game with discovering these two, but this was the song that stole my heart.

Favorite Verse:

"And now hold up your chain slow motion through the flames
Now cue the smoke machines and the simulated rain
But not too loud 'cause the baby's sleepin
I wonder if it knows what the world is keepin
Up both sleeves while he lay there dreamin
Me and my robot tip-toe 'round creepin"

I love this performance, just how Lupe brings in the live orchestra, electric guitar, keys, and the instrument that makes the "ding" noise.. and Jill Scott's vocals are amazing too. she has amazing control on her voice.. this is what got me hooked on her. I'm sad I missed her at the paramount last year, hopefully she'll return to Seattle.

and the video is crazzyy. I really feel like music videos tell a lot about the artist, because it really shows how the artist chooses to visualize their music.

Here are some other crazy cool music videos:

Janelle Monae - Many Moons
(this has been posted in our side bar for awhile.. haha)

Lauryn Hill - Everything is Everything

okay that's all i can post for now... too many you tube users are now disabling embedding on their you tube videos.

music that never get's old.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Korean Pop Star Featured on BET? is this a break through?

So today on 106 and Park, SE7EN's new "smash hit" with Lil Kim "Girls" was featured. Se7en is a south korean internationally known pop star. I don't really know much about him, but initially in hearing BET introduce the video I was kind of taken by surprise, not sure if I heard right when they said "south korean pop star." especially since Asian Americans don't have much visibility in the mainstream music industry.

however, after watching the video, and listening to the song I had feelings of uncertainty about how I feel about an Asian American popstar emerging into the mainstream music industry. In his new single, "girls," he refers to girls as accessories, literally.

Trying to make you my accessory/ All Girls are necessary

I Mean there's more to the lyrics too, but I just don't feel like getting into it right now. And of course in the video he's surrounded by the prototype video girl. Soo I'm thinking this music video pretty much looks exactly like any typical mainstreamed MTV/BET/VHI R&B music video. But in referencing an older post, there are problems with the ways many of our most popular artists of color have been bamboozled into the mainstream music industry only to further perpetuate stereotypes of masculinity and femininity, essentially affecting our own understandings of gender identity.
This video is no different. I hope for Asian Americans to continue to become visible in the media through various outlets. But I'm not sure if visibility means being bamboozled by the industry is better or worse then being invisible.

oh and look, in April, a lucky girl can win a date with Se7en, and get the opportunity to "Accessorize" him.. ...