Wednesday, December 06, 2017

My Tedx Talk: "Five Things Art Taught Me About Activism" (featuring a new version of "Quicksand")



***UPDATE: a limited run of shirts available for order now featuring a quote from this talk; order before 12/21 and get free shipping (in the US)***

Here it is. If you want a summary, the talk is basically about how the relationship between art and activism is so much deeper than just art that happens to be about activist stuff, that there's a further connection in terms of process. The questions that artists ask themselves often mirror the questions that activists ask. The steps that artists take from idea to concept to art often mirror the steps that activists take from value to principle to action.

My biggest worry is that the title of the talk might insinuate that it's "for" artists or people who are already deeply engaged in activist work. And it's not, really. This talk is for anyone who knows the world is messed up, and wants to do something about it. Just a few notes:

1. The talk opens with a revised version of my poem "Quicksand." I've always liked that poem, but have also always worried that it's too easy to misinterpret, to read it as a critique of slacktivism, or a call for action-for-action's sake; for me, it's something more nuanced. It's my own fault as a writer that that isn't more clear, but this talk gave me a chance to dig into the poem a little more.

2. The full text to that poem can be found here, and it's also included in my book. As for the text of the full talk, I'm working on a highly-reimagined version of it for my new book, but I'd be happy to email anyone requesting the text for accessibility's sake. The little verse at the end is from the Sifu Hotman (which is me, Dem Atlas, and Rube) song "Matches," something I've found myself performing more and more over the past year.

3. The talk also plays off the zine that me and Olivia Novotny made this past year; I'm currently working on a revised/updated version of that as well. Feel free to share!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Poems, Links, and Resources RE: #MeToo, Consent, and Rape Culture

RE: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Charlie Sheen, Tony Cornish, Louis CK, Dan Schoen, Donald Trump, and far too many others.

In my ongoing quest to break out of the thinkpiece cycle (where things happen in the world, and my first impulse is to write an essay to let people know "here's what I think about THIS," because there are plenty of other/better people doing that already), I figured I'd try to share something practical. What follows are some poem/videos, links, and resources for people trying to teach about consent, healthy sexuality, and dismantling rape culture. Feel free to add more in the comments.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Links and Resources Regarding the 2017 Minneapolis Election

It may go without saying, but let's say it: if you're frustrated about our political reality on a national and international level, one of the most powerful actions you can take is to engage on a local level. Our city council and mayor (and Parks Board!) have real power to affect people's lives. Additionally, local elections aren't just about candidates winning and losing; they're an opportunity for all of us to get more plugged in, and start paying closer attention to the level of government over which we have the most control. This post focuses on Minneapolis, but the same is true elsewhere. So what follows are a few resources:

1. For Those of Us Who Need More Information
Voices for Racial Justice, Pollen, and Rhymesayers collaborated on this fantastic voter guide. The guide features fairly in-depth candidate profiles, and those candidates' answers to a range of good questions (at least for those who bothered to answer). It also has links for you to find out what ward you're in, and how/where/when to vote. A perfect entry point, especially for new voters.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Page/Stage/Engage 2017 + #PowerPossibility w/ TruArtSpeaks



As some of you already know, I work with this organization in Minnesota called TruArtSpeaks. The organization's mission is to "cultivate literacy, leadership, and social justice through the study and application of Spoken Word and Hip Hop culture," and that comes to life through programs like the Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam series, the weekly ReVerb open mic, the Saint Paul Youth Poet Laureate program, and more.

Those are all big, public-facing programs, but an enormous part of our work is actually less visible, with youth leadership/development programs like the Youth Advisory Board and Apprenticeship Program. This work is never just about young people writing and performing; it's about the spaces that nourish that process, about how we work together, cross-generationally, to build capacity as movement-builders and change-makers. So in that spirit, ALL money raised between 9/15 and 10/15 will go directly to these youth leadership programs.

The legendary Danez Smith matched the first $1k raised. I'm matching the next $1k. Please consider donating today!


Related: my next Twin Cities show will be Friday, September 22 at the UMN's Whole Music Club. This will be our fourth year in a row doing Page/Stage/Engage, and I couldn't be more excited about this lineup. The event is FREE and open to the public, and will feature BdotCroc, Tish Jones, members of the #BeHeard17 cohort, DJ Just Nine, and me. Spread the word.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

MPD150 and the Movement Toward a Police-Free Future

EDIT: the fundraiser was successful! Thanks to everyone who pitched in. Stay updated here.

image credit: hclou | #hclouart

MPD150
is a community-based initiative challenging the narrative that police exist to protect and serve. By researching the Minneapolis Police Department’s history, reviewing current practices, and mapping responsible alternatives, we are committed to pursuing a police-free future. 


With that headline, I'd imagine that the people I'm in touch with will have one of two reactions:
  1. "Cool; I've been looking for more opportunities to support this work in a concrete way."
    (or)
  2. "What? We need the police; I agree that reforms are needed too, but that's too much."
For the former, thank you. Please donate between now and 9/18; this group is gearing up to do some great work, both on a research/policy level and on an arts/narrative-shifting level, and every dollar counts.

For the latter, please read the "Frequently-Asked Questions" section on the website. These FAQs do a lot to address the most common arguments as to why police abolition is too radical, too unrealistic, or too dangerous. Of course, you may still have questions or disagreements after reading it; that's good. The website also has a great resources list, featuring free, immediately-accessible readings that dig a little deeper into the concept.

This campaign isn't just about researching and pushing specific policy points related to budgets and community resource allocation; it's also about asking all of us to think bigger. To ask more critical questions. To imagine something better. I don't expect everyone to know to jump on board 100% right away; I'm just asking people to have an open mind. Explore the website, dig into the readings, and get involved, if you are so moved. There's more on the way!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Few Poems that Might Be Useful for Educators Who Want to Talk about Charlottesville with Their Students

Confederate statue in Durham torn down; image from here.
At the top of this week, the Washington Post published this piece by Valerie Strauss: The first thing teachers should do when school starts is talk about hatred in America. Here’s help.

Update: another good link: There is No Apolitical Classroom: Resources for Teaching in These Times via the National Council of Teachers of English.

Those links contain more links to resources, readings, and lesson plans, and may be a good place to start for educators who know that current events matter, and that not talking about Charlottesville makes a statement to your students that's just as loud as any conversation or critical exploration.

In that spirit, and because my background is in using spoken word as a tool for narrative-building and opening up spaces for authentic dialogue, I wanted to share a few poems that have been on my mind lately. As always, list-making is tricky. This is not a list of the "best" poems about this topic; it's a list of poems that might be useful for educators looking for artistic work that can prompt some critical thinking about hate, white supremacy, and the recent events in Charlottesville.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Guante: A Furious Vexation (Free Download + Lyrics)


Recorded, engineered, and arranged by SEE MORE PERSPECTIVE at Luv 'n' Dedication Studio. 

New project: it's one 15-minute track, but it's a bunch of songs. Free download. A few notes:

This is a kind of quick-and-dirty remix project, featuring a collage of previously-released songs and guest verses performed over jacked beats-- a Hip Hop tradition. For what it's worth, I do have two other new projects in the works (both featuring original production and all-new lyrics); I made "A Furious Vexation" really just for fun. It's a summer project, recorded over a handful of hours in See More Perspective's studio.

I mean, that being said, there's also a more serious side to this. As "political" as pretty much all of my work is, I haven't posted/talked a lot about this president. Part of that is because I know that my audience, or at least the vast majority of it, is already on "my side" when it comes to him, and I try to engage with political issues from an angle of challenging the audience, or encouraging critical thinking from new angles, blah blah blah. And this project is a bit more straightforward. But I think that's okay. Sometimes you just have to add your voice to the chorus.

I know that the references here are messy and weird. The title and the vocal samples are from Fury Road. The album art is a cropped image of Akira sitting on a throne of ruins. The songs include references to Game of Thrones, Lovecraft, vampires, and other sci-fi/pop cultural things. And of course, none of that stuff really goes together. But then again, it kind of does, especially in the context of this particular president. That's one reason why Hip Hop--specifically-- is so important: it gives us space to sample, deconstruct, and recontextualize, to make connections that aren't always obvious, to be both blunt and subtle, both direct and subversive. And in times like these, I think that flexibility is important.

And as always, channel that rage into action, whenever/wherever/however possible.

So yeah, check it out. It's a good length for a quick workout, a drive to work, or sharpening your sword. Find all of my albums here. Here are the full lyrics for this project: