Monday, March 31, 2008

Finding Ways to Intertwine Art and Activism

(This is an exerpt from my book, SHOTGUN SAMURAI VAMPIRE HIP HOP, though here it's a bit expanded and revised. Figured I'd post it here, even though i might lose a few million dollars in book sales. Feel free to add on too; these are just a few ideas).

I know first-hand that it can be a challenge to balance being an artist with being an activist. As one becomes more successful on one front, the other has to play the background; doing a good job at either one is a full-time responsibility. So I’ve done a lot of thinking about the role of art in social movements, and here’s what I’ve come up with.

I know some people think that music is this all-powerful entity and that if we all just held hands and sang “What’s Goin’ On” the Pentagon would turn into a giant sunflower, but I never really bought that. I think music can be inspirational, educational and powerful, but only in the right context. Art, I believe, has to ultimately play a supplementary role in “the movement.” If we’re just singing songs about injustice, that’s great, but the only way to really make change is to organize.

Here are seven things artists can do to support that organizing process:

1. Fundraisers
Fundraisers are always great because everyone ends up happy: the fans get a good show, the organization gets some much-needed cash, and the artists get good press and possibly exposure to a new audience. It’s always kind of amazed me that so many indie artists stick to the “three bands at a club and we’ll split the door” model of gigging night in and night out. Sure—that’s how you make money, especially if you’ve got a decent following, but a lot of acts could stand to gain by doing that less and considering more benefit shows, maybe even just once every few months. And for certain community organizations, one show, a few hundred dollars, could make a huge difference. The first step is really just networking with organizations, sending a few emails. The rest is easy.

2. Benefit Compilations
Related to the first point, this involves pulling together an album (perhaps from donated songs from artists you know) and putting all the proceeds toward a good cause. Again, everybody wins. It’s a little more work, but most bands and rappers and poets have at least a track or two laying around that didn’t make their album. Sometimes these discarded tracks are real gems too—compilations are great for compiling them.

3. Workshops for Youth
Many cities have arts programs set up either as in-school or after-school clubs and meetings. Get involved! If your city doesn’t have anything, set up a meeting with the relevant people (principals, teachers, youth activists, etc.) and make it happen. Youth really need more outlets for their creative energy—we all know how school can suck the life out of us. I’ve done all kinds of writing and performance workshops, both hip hop and poetry-based, and they’re always rewarding experiences for everyone involved. And it’s not just hip hop or poetry; you can teach kids to play guitar, or sing or whatever.

4. Using Performance Space as Activist Space
Even if your shows aren’t always fundraisers, they can always be political and activist-oriented. Make friends with local organizations you support and let them table at your events. Have flyers promoting the next big march or rally or teach-in next to flyers promoting your next show. Make announcements on stage about candidates you support or referendums people should vote for or events they need to attend.

5. Sharing Your Networks and Promotional Skills
As artists, we all have email lists and thousands of friends on MySpace, good connections with the local media and a whole lot of experience promoting events, putting up flyers and getting the word out. We can use that networking power for more than our own shows. Again, make friends with good local organizations and offer to help them out on the promotional front.

6. Put Your Mic Down and Go to a Meeting
As much as music can take over your life, it’s important to make time for the issues you care about. Singing songs about Darfur isn’t going to do much. We can be more effective as “artist/activists” than we can as “conscious artists.” We all have causes we care about; it’s usually just a matter of finding other like-minded people and getting to work. For those of us who are “professional” artists and have very little free time, consider the other points on this list, or come up with new, creative ways to work on the issues that are important to you without torpedoing your career or driving yourself insane.

7. More Thoughtful, Challenging Songwriting
For those who do insist on writing political material, just keep in mind that you’ll probably be preaching to the choir. So to me, that means that if you want to make any kind of real impact, you have to challenge people. Don’t write a song about how “racism is bad,” write a song about how even well-meaning people can commit racist acts. Don’t rap about “revolution,” rap about the importance of community organizing and why voting isn’t enough. Don’t try to cram every injustice in the world into a three minute poem—pick one and tell a story about it, humanize it.

Though I write a lot about how art can’t save the world, it CAN have an impact—I don’t want to understate that. Poetry is elevated language—we should have elevated ideas to reflect that language. More on all that here, in a previous post.

All in all, everyone needs to balance their activism with their lives. As artists, we're lucky-- our lives are uniquely suited for a kind of synergy-- finding time to work on important issues doesn't necessarily have to take time away from playing shows and networking and all the stuff we have to do every day anyway. It just takes some creativity.

And it can be easy to do this poorly or ineffectively. I love the idea behind, say, "Punk Rock Against Global Warming" or whatever, but i think it's important to think about the events we produce-- is it all about the name, or are we building bridges and opening up lanes of communication for something deeper? Are we doing something that really makes a difference, or are we just "making people think?" Not that there's anything wrong with the latter, but we can't forget about the former.

Check out SUBSTANCE, a great organization in the Twin Cities devoted to social justice and the arts. They're going to be promoting a bunch of events this spring and summer.

Monday, March 24, 2008

also, pretty pictures from B-FRESH

I wasn't going to post yet more pictures of myself, but these ones are really good, courtesy of one of the Twin Cities' top photographers. These are from the Minneapolis release party. Here's her myspace.

The lovely merch table:

Sha Cage, holding a fistful of magic:See More Perspective, or as i like to say, See More Paychecks:
Chantz, rapping exceptionally well:
Truthmaze, on his birthday, throwing cards like Gambit:
Your humble narrator, singing the classics:

See More and Me; i'd have my mask on too, but it's hard to rap with it:

some articles on self-definition and identity

Grand Theft Racial Identity: Who Gets to Define You?

Mixed Messenger

Good reads.

I remember doing identity excercises in student SEED, even as a facilitator, and always having to pause when asked what my race and/or ethnicity is. There's always a tension between self-definition and external definition. I know that i am perceived by the outside world as white, and that i benefit from white privilege as much as anyone. But as a mixed-race person, i grew up with different cultures and define myself as a mixed product of those cultures.

How to reconcile that? Or not?

A lot of people seem to believe that what really matters is how YOU identify yourself. But i think there's some danger in that, specifically as a "visually-white" person. For me, it's important to keep in mind that although i may self-identify as mixed, that identification doesn't really count for much beyond the boundaries of my own skull. When i walk down the street or apply for a job or whatever, i'm a white man.

And it can be tempting to try to distance onself from whiteness rather than come to terms with it, particularly when you're a progressive, or a hip hop artist, or a social justice advocate. And there's also danger in that. I think it's important to understand not just our histories and our heritages (which are important and do shape who we are), but ALSO how we fit into the structure of society right NOW, for better or worse. Identity, then, is all that, and is far more complex than a check-box on a form.

As a Norwegian/Japanese rapper with a Spanish name immersed in Black culture, things can get confusing. I appreciated these articles. Check out the comments too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

eventually i'll stop blogging about myself

... but in the meantime check out these videos!

Bring Out Your Dead (live w/ long intro)

That's Sha Cage with the lovely intro, DJ Fundamentalist on the tables and See More Perspective backing me up. The intro is "Memory" from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack, which blends into the "Back to Black" beat from Mark Ronson/Amy Winehouse, which turns into the actual song, which was produced by Tracksmith of the Figureheads. We let that intro ride for a long time to build some tension, and the masks are definitely creepy. We didn't have to jack those two beats, but they just fit the vibe of the set so perfectly, i figured why not? The song itself is based on the film "J'accuse," wherein dead soldiers from WWI rise up and march through the streets of Paris demanding justice. That's a pretty powerful image, and i wanted to write a song about how every war is an endless war, how we are all affected by war even when we're not on the front lines. For the live show, we cut out the last verse (which more explicitly deals with some of that stuff), but you can hear it on the album.

Scratching the Surface with a Sledgehammer (live)

This song was also produced by Tracksmith of the Figureheads. If you know my writing, you know that i like to criticize what i love as much as what i hate. And i love underground hip hop, so i feel like it's important to call out some of the negative stuff i see going on there-- namely, overly-formulaic songwriting. Not the most poetic or nuanced song ever, but sometimes it's fun to just yell at people. For the third verse, we flipped the Tracksmith beat into the Nas "Get Down" beat, which is just beautiful-- so smooth, so easy to rap over. I try to include some form of this song in every set; i think it's important to go beyond "fuck bush" and talk about where change really comes from. It's a discussion we don't often have in this country.

Anyways, big ups to G.Dot for filming this for me.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

EL GUANTE'S HAUNTED VAN TOUR RECAP

The tour isn't done-- it'll be an ongoing thing through the summer, but the first swing is over and here's a recap. Lots of packed venues, lots of great artists, lots of food, lots of CDs sold... one hell of a trip:
0. Me, See More Perspective and e. g. bailey set out in the haunted van from Minneapolis. As you may know, i believe in building community, so this post is going to link to a bunch of artists you should really check out right now. These aren't my friends or people to whom i owe money, these are emcees, bands and poets who can get DOWN. This whole swing had unbelievable talent showcased at every show. We're building a powerful network.

1. We started out in Milwaukee at the Stonefly, and played with the always amazing Figureheads and Milwaukee emcee Haz Solo of the House of M. Haz had a wild set-- he's got that futuristic throwback style that's so hot right now-- crazy stage presence, big glasses, danceable beats. Very energetic and entertaining. Figureheads tore it down as usual. Their new material is crazy-- still has that cold, electronic feel juxtaposed with so much... heart. A very unique group. Me and See More broke out the masks for the very first time, which probably scared people. But it was a great show. Big ups to Nigel Wade, Darlin' Nikki and Pyramid, three of Milwaukee's top poets and all tremendous human beings, for coming out.

A lot of the photos from this show didn't turn out too great for whatever reason, but here's the lovely merch table. Look how the whole album/book/single/sticker has a singular aesthetic. I'm a damn genius:

2. Next stop was West Chicago, which is not, contrary to popular belief, the West side of Chicago. It's its own city. We played at a spot called the Oasis, which was very interesting-- a hookah bar and restaurant in a strip mall. Ezekiel38 was first-- a very solid Chicago-style emcee, member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, all-around cool guy. Chicago's Philip Morris went next-- this is one of those guys who elevates his live show-- through personality, through creative call-and-response and through a natural charisma you have to see to believe. It wasn't the most attentive crowd ever, but Phil won them over. Here he is:
The night's biggest surprise for me was Agents of Change, one of a very small group of bands in the country to do punk/hip hop WELL. A lot of acts, at least in my experience, who claim to blend those two genres are really just mediocre punk bands with some rapping really poorly over the riffs. But this band had CHOPS, and the emcee was a beast, flying all over the room, rapping, screaming, stripping, jumping off chairs. And to top it all off, these guys have good politics, an increasingly-rare treat. Definitely check them out. Here's a photo:
Aside from myself, who was great (of course), the last act of the evening was Gray Area, a crew of like a dozen rappers. Even though there were only two mics, the whole crew stayed on stage, jumping around and supporting each other. It wasn't the most nuanced or revolutionary hip hop ever, but it was kind of cool to see a huge group of guys just having fun making straight-ahead hip hop music.

3. Next was Madison, my home-away-from-home. We had high hopes for this show and were not disappointed. It was free and all ages, and co-sponsored by the University's Union Directorate. We managed to work with the Multicultural Student Coalition, a powerful and influential student group on campus, to blend our two potentially-conflicting events (my release party and their b-boy battle, both scheduled for the same night) into one supershow. And though six hours of hip hop can be a bit much, it worked out beautifully. Here's a picture of Soul Sessions, the pre-event that hosted the b-boy battle (photo by e. g. bailey):
The show itself was wild-- we wanted to mix genres and get a really eclectic vibe. The show featured the Big Mouth Cooperative, a wild jazz act; PosNoSys, an all-hmong rock/hip hop band whose name is short for "Post Nomadic Syndrome;" Truthmaze, who blends hip hop with blues and reggae; See More Perspective, whom you should know by now; Sha Cage, one of the top spoken-word artists in the Midwest; the Figureheads, who masterfully blend electronica with hip hop; DJ Fundamentalist and myself. A lot of people came out, and we went to Perkins afterward and ate too much. A few highlights, courtesy of e. g. bailey:

Truthmaze:
Oskar Ly of PosNoSys:
The Figureheads w/ me in the background and Greg combusting:
Tracksmith of the Figureheads, who produced three songs on my new album:
DJ Fundamentalist:
Me and See More Perspective:
It was nice to see a lot of old friends too. The infamous Last Minute Poets even reunited for a trip to Perkins. Look how happy we ALL are:

4. Next was Chicago, a Sunday night show at the Elastic. This was the smallest show we did, but maybe the most fun. A killer lineup: Ezekiel38, Il Subliminal, Diagram of Truth, Nazirah P. Mickey, Jyroscope, DCG, See More Perspective and myself. The night was full of surprises. Jyroscope did an all-Biggie jacked-beats set (it was March 9), Il lost his beat CD and did the most incredible a capella beatbox/singing piece i've heard in a long time. He's really doing some interesting, against-the-grain stuff. Diagram of Truth, down from a big crew to a duo, haven't lost a step-- great stage show, two emcees who also DJ and produce and play keys on stage. Me and SeeMore let loose and played one of our best sets. More pics from e. g. bailey:

A no-look freestyle session w/ me, Ezekiel, DCG and Colasoul of Jyroscope:
Nazirah P. Mickey:
Jyroscope with backup dancers Il Subliminal and Gilead7:

5. Minneapolis was the one i was worried about. Being a new emcee in a city full of emcees kind of feels like being the new kid in high school. And, yeah, i might be the COOL new kid who doesn't give a fuck what people think of me and smokes cigarettes by the bike racks, but it can still be a stressful place to inhabit. But i had no reason to worry-- the show was packed, even with little-to-no-mention in the media. Tru Ruts gets down like that. We kept the show a mostly family affair: Sha Cage, Truthmaze, See More Perspective and myself; but we also brought in DJ Fundamentalist, Autumn Compton & the Most Wanted, and Chantz. Autumn and the band play a beautiful blend of hip hop, soul, downtempo and almost folk. They organize Freakin' Fridays every Friday at the Blue Nile-- be sure to support that. Chantz is sixteen and a better rapper than me in a lot of ways. Kid is scary good, and i'm glad we could get him on the bill. More pretty pictures:

Chantz:
Autumn Compton & The Most Wanted (though the wonderful violin player got cut out of the picture-- sorry!):
See More playing hypeman during my set:
Scary masks:

6. Last stop on the first swing was Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at this place:
It was very cool to play in a regular ol' bar for a change, and one called "The Blue Collar" at that. Our host, Imperfekt, is a monster of an emcee, yet another kid from a city i'd never been to who can just tear shit down. He played first, and got the crowd very hype. Though the spot looks kind of small from the outside, they really pack people in. With no stage, we're kind of just there in the middle of the crowd, rapping. It was beautiful. For our set, SeeMore took his cordless mic and walked to the far other end of the building and we surrounded the crowd with rhymes. Very fun. Krummie capped the night off. He was one of the 25 finalists for the White Rapper Show, and showed why. Photos from e. g. bailey:

Imperfekt:
Me and See More Perspective:
See More Cats:
The best part of the whole swing (perhaps aside from getting caked up) was meeting all these artists and solidifying our Midwest network. We are the next generation of indie artists, and it's just so beautiful to see us all working together like this. Hopefully we'll be hosting a lot of these artists here in Minneapolis soon.

THANKS to all the people who came out to all the shows. I hope you like the album.

EL GUANTE'S HAUNTED VAN TOUR will keep rolling. Check the website for dates.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

strangers judging my baby



...that's what it feels like when you seal those envelopes and send the album out to get reviews. Some people will shower your baby with gold and incense. Some people will think the baby is cute, but even they might have germy fingers or influenza or whatever. Some people will hate babies in general, and they'll try to say something nice, but you'll know. And though this doesn't fit into my little metaphor at all, some people won't even understand what babies ARE and will have no vantage point from which to judge yours ("i'm more of a puppy person... i mean, i've HEARD of babies, but can they do any tricks?")

And i don't mind a negative review-- hell, with the nature of this album i expect a few people not to like it. But it's like a butcher knife through my sternum when negative reviews aren't well thought-out or argued, when they're on some "he's kind of angry and that makes me uncomfortable" or "this doesn't sound enough like Gangstarr for me to consider it hip hop" or whatever (a note: i haven't gotten any of these kinds of reviews; it's just my paranoid side looking into the future). And you're just as likely to get positive reviews that similarly miss the mark, like "he doesn't talk about guns and cars, so this is automatically good" or "this reminds me of Atmosphere so that's cool" or whatever.

The control freak in me hates the fact that you never know who the reviewers are going to be. They could be hardcore hip hop heads who can put your work in context and get the references, or they could be 23-year old journalism majors who listen to the Decemberists and got assigned your album randomly by their editor.

"But hey whiny-bag," you might say. "If the music is good it shouldn't matter!"

I'd like to believe that, but it does matter. My days as a faux-journalist taught me a lot about how newspapers and magazines and blogs work. All artists have target markets, whether they want to admit that or not. When a writer isn't in your target market, they're not going to be able to interface with your art in the way you want. To me, art is a two-way relationship. I write for myself, but i also write to speak to other people-- and not just any people, but a specific group. I don't particularly agree with the idea that music is universal-- maybe certain kinds of dance music or melodic music or stuff where the content is an afterthought-- but music that is content-oriented (spoken-word, folk, indie-hip hop, etc.) is always directed at a certain demographic. Either that, or it's so watered-down that it's meaningless.

As much as i want to say that my music is for everyone, it's not. Even if i write it for "everyone," i know damn well who is most likely to hear it and who is most likely to care about it. So, consciously or unconsciously, i'm speaking to those people. This is why, to me, songs or poems that just say "fuck Bush" or "racism is bad" are ineffective. At a given poetry slam or hip hop show, you're going to have an audience 99.5% in agreement with you. But that's a tangent.

I also have to check myself. I love my album because i know exactly what it represents and what i'm trying to say. But not every listener is going to "get it" right away, or at all. Or maybe they'll "get it" and just not like it. We all experience art differently. And that's... okay. Or at least that's what i keep telling myself.

Anyways, i'm not complaining here-- it's all just part of the game. My last album got all positive reviews and this album's got some great reviews already too-- i'll post them all together once we have more.

BUT I SWEAR, SO HELP ME, IF ANYONE GIVES ME A FLAT-OUT BAD REVIEW, I'LL POST A REBUTTAL MAD FAST ON MY WELL-TRAFFICKED BLOG AND MAKE YOU LOOK LIKE A FOOL. GOOD LUCK GETTING THAT STAFF POSITION AT SPIN AFTER WORLD-FAMOUS BLOGGER EL GUANTE DECONSTRUCTS YOUR SOUL.

Just kidding.

Jokes.

Really. All press is good press, and i welcome criticism.

Good day.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

El Guante's Haunted Van Tour

A whole bunch of CD release parties:

3/6 Milwaukee:


3/7 West Chicago:


3/8 Madison:


3/9 Chicago:


3/14 Minneapolis:


3/15 Cedar Rapids:


more coming soon too.

Monday, March 03, 2008

"2008: The Year of Women in Hip Hop"

I pulled this press release from B-Fresh's MySpace blog. Some pretty great stuff going on-- check the links in particular.

New York, NY - NO MORE! ENOUGH OF BEING CALLED B*tches and H**s! Powerful, intelligent, self-respecting women in Hip-Hop do exist. They're on the microphone, off-camera, and behind the scenes. They hold significant positions at the top echelons of the industry's professional food chain. They are anonymous shining stars. Why don't we know about them? Because they are silently tucked away due to a lack of media exposure, male-centric programming, and adverse images that present a one-sided perspective of women in Hip-Hop.
THE WOMANHOOD LEARNING PROJECT (WLP) is a wake-up call. It is a sound out to all the B-Girls and Hip Hop Queens-women who have transformed music and culture. The WLP is a project of the Hip-Hop Association [H2A], in collaboration with Social Services of Hip-Hop, We B*Girlz, Where My Ladies at? Interactive Film, and We Got Issues! The mission is to restore and revive the Hip-Hop Woman through the Womanhood Learning Project by exploring the role of women in leadership and other sectors within Hip-Hop culture and the community. WLP will examine the negative media and power struggles that hinder the growth and awareness of women in the hip hop generation. It will focus strong attention on how these factors impact the youth, especially young girls. The WLP is intended to unify women in Hip-Hop by creating a space for them to learn, build, and bring about concrete change. This will occur through a yearlong campaign that includes a resource book, lecture series, workshops, an online community and a case study.

Hip-Hop girls and women deserve acknowledgement. And the world deserves to know about how these women have become successful by negotiating the sexist system of Hip-Hop. The H2A and its partners, through the Womanhood Learning Project, will study and promote these invisible, yet talented women, and provide tools and resource to empower educators, social workers, parents, youth and most of all, women and girls.

The H2A has convened an Advisory Committee of progressive and accomplished women in Hip-Hop and education and culture for the Womanhood Learning Project. It includes luminaries such as Dr. Roxanne Shante, Martha Cooper, DJ Beverly Bonds, Maria "Toofly" Castillo, Raquel Cepeda, Suhier Hammad, Toni Blackman, Raqiyah Mays, Michaela Angela Davis, and Dr. Irma McClaurin. H2A, the WLP Advisory Committee, and our partners-the Social Services of Hip-Hop, We B*Girlz, Where My Ladies at? Interactive Film, and We Got Issues! are all committed to making the WLP a success and celebrating the Year of the Hip-Hop Woman.

The Womanhood Learning Project's primary resource will be an encyclopedia of pioneering and trend-setting women entitled, Fresh, Bold, and So Def: Women in Hip-Hop Changing The Game, edited by Martha Diaz and Felicia Pride. The volume contains 300 profiles of international artists, industry professionals, and social activists. It is groundbreaking and informative focusing on how they have persevered and broken down barriers to make a difference in Hip-Hop culture and society at large. Fresh, Bold, and So Def: Women In Hip-Hop Changing The Game is written to serve as an inspiration for educating girls and women, boys and men, young and old, and everyone else on the historical legacy of women in Hip-Hop.

The Year of the Hip-Hop Woman is about change. It is not a blame, shame or game campaign. It is about appreciation and respect; it is about acknowledgment and positive depictions of women. It pays homage to women who help create Hip-Hop, but whose stories have not been told in their entirety.

Womanhood Learning Project H2A Team
Martha Diaz, President of the Hip-Hop Association Mona Ibrahim, Director of Community Building and Program Development
Nakia Alston, H2A Communications and Development Coordinator
Beth Sachnoff, Head Researcher, H2Ed Communications and Development Coordinator
Kompalya Thunderbird, Director of Media Acquisition and Communications
Deanne Ziadie-Nemitz - Preservation Coordinator
Amanda Cumbow, Researcher
Ebonie Smith, Researcher

Womanhood Learning Project Partners
Jineea Butler-Graham - Hip-Hop Analyst, Social Services of Hip-Hop
J-Love - Activist, Author - White Girl, We Got Issues!
Leba Haber - Director of the interactive film, Where My Ladies At?
Nika Kramer - Writer, Translator, Activist - We B*Girlz (Germany)

Womanhood Learning Project Advisory Committee
Toni Blackman - Freestyle Union and US State Dept. Ambassador
Beverly Bond - DJ, Activist - Black Girls Rock Foundation
Maria "Toofly" Castillo - Graffiti Artist, Activist -Younity
Raquel Cepeda - Filmmaker, Author, Journalist
Rosa Clemente - Cultural Critic, Activist - Know Thyself
Martha Cooper - Pioneer Photographer, Author - We B*Girlz
Michaela Angela Davis - Fashionista, Cultural Anthropologist
Tamara Dawit - Activist - What's the 411? (Canada)
Caridad "La Bruja" De La Luz - MC, Poet, Activist - Latinas 4 Life
Dowoti Desir - Director, Malcolm x & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial & Educational Center
Delphine Diallo - Photographer, Filmmaker, Visual Artist (France)
Johanna Guevara - 7one8Designs
Suheir Hammad - Poet, Author, Activist
Indy Hunjan - Kala Phool, Rising Styles (England)
Maori Karmael Holmes - President of the Black Lily Film and Music Festival
Raqiyah Mays - Managing Editor, The Ave and Radio Host for Hot 97/98.7
Dr. Irma McClaurin - Scholar, Poet, Writer, Author
Elisha Miranda - Filmmaker, Author, Activist, Sister Outsider/Chica Luna
Felicia Pride - Journalist, Author, The Message
Rokafella - B-Girl, Activist - Full Circle Productions
Dr. Tricia Rose - Pioneer Scholar, Author, Black Noise, Brown University
Marcella Runell Hall - Author, Activist, Educator, NYU
Dr. Theda Palmer Saxon - Life coach, Pres. of Seasoned Woman, Inc., Author, Pace U.
Raquel Sanchez - Alphabet City Design
Dr. Roxanne Shante - Pioneer MC and Psychologist
Akiba Solomon - Journalist, Author - Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts
Noelle Theard - Photographer, Activist

The Womanhood Learning Project (WLP) Interactive Lecture Series
The WLP Interactive Lecture Series is a yearlong talking tour that serves as a space for women to discuss issues affecting women in Hip-Hop. The topics include Media, Politics, Gender Roles, Entrepreneurship, Education. This is a preliminary schedule based on existing events.

Part I - W.A.R. (Women Armed and Ready)!:Defining the Reel Images of Women in Hip-Hop
March 2, 2008 - 5th Annual NYC Grassroots Media Conference www.nycgrassrootsmedia.org
This is a 90-minute candid interactive workshop focusing on the role media plays in the portrayal of women in Hip-Hop, and the issues and effects that women have to deal with as a result. From Queens to whores, the roles of women have changed dramatically over the last 30 years. From misogyny to hypersexual behavior, a whole generation of young men and women have been desensitized and programmed through negative media images. It's time to confront the media outlets, and step up as media-makers and concerned citizens to take control of our images, redefine our selves and create a new perspective of women. Martha Diaz - President of the Hip-Hop Association; Maori Karmael Holmes - Producer/Director, Scene Not Heard; Melissa Ulto - Editor, The Art of Love and Struggle; and Toni Blackman - Hip-Hop Ambassador, Artist, Writer will discuss how their work addresses these issues, how their work is creating media justice, and they will share clips of their projects. Sponsored by the Hip-Hop Association

Part II - Uplifting, Empowering and Educating By Any Means Necessary!
March 26, 2008 - Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial & Education Center (NYC)
This event includes a press conference, benefit reception, and performance showcase. Sponsored by the Social Services of Hip-Hop

Part III- Herstory: The Power of Women Community Leaders and Entrepreneurs
March 29, 2008 - Sponsored by Urban League of Alaska (Anchorage, Alaska)

Part IV- Conscious Women Rock The Page
April 18, 2008 - HHEAL Festival (Bronx, NY)
This workshop focuses on the collaboration among four women known in socially conscious Hip-Hop circles: Jennifer "JLOVE" Calderon, author of That White Girl; Elisha "E-Fierce" Miranda, author of The Sista Hood; Sofia "Black Artemis" Quintero, author of Picture Me Rollin'; and Marcella Runell Hall, co-editor of The Hip Hop Education Guidebook. They have enlisted a diverse team of activist educators to design lessons. The lessons and activities spark discussions on issues such as race, gender, class, sexual orientation and more. Sponsored by We Got Issues!

Part V - Surviving The Entertainment Industry
May 2008 - Black Lily Film and Music Festival (Philadelphia, PA)

Part VI - Fresh, Bold, and So Def: Who Are the Media Moguls?
June 25, 2008 - H2O International Film Festival (NYC)

Part VIII - Our Stories: Documenting and Preserving Our Legacy
August 2008 - We B*Girlz Festival (Berlin, Germany)
This event is a one-month multimedia festival sponsored by Women for Women to celebrate the 4 elements of Hip Hop and more.

Part IX - Freedom Talk Tour Commences
December 2008 - Sponsored by We Got Issues!

About Hip-Hop Association:

The Hip-Hop Association [H2A] is a 501(c)(3) media, education, and arts community building organization. Our projects are designed to encourage critical thinking, education reform, cross-cultural unity and civic engagement. The H2A empowers the community through the use of media, technology, resources, social entrepreneurship, and leadership development. We are producers of the largest annual international Hip-Hop film festival, and Hip-Hop Education forums. www.hiphopassociation.org.

About Social Services of Hip Hop:
The Social Services of Hip Hop is a psychology based service agency that identifies and remedies issues that affect the growth of the Hip Hop community by presenting revenue generating and community building activities. The company serves as a technical assistance intermediary that organizes and enhances programs that interact with the Hip Hop Community. Our mission is to empower Hip Hop citizens to their maximum level of functioning by providing effective tools, resources and services. www.ss-hiphop.com.

About We Got Issues!:
We Got Issues! mission is to awaken a new brand of feminine centered leadership and social/political activism in America. Through rigorous training and development we strengthen young women's internal resources and capacity to lead, through outreach and education we facilitate the creation of networks and collaborations that leverage young women's best knowledge, skills and resources and through advocacy and recognition we promote new models of bold courageous and empowered leadership by honoring the often overlooked contributions young women make to their respective communities and to society as a whole. www.wegotissues.org.

About We B*Girlz Festival:
The We B*Girlz Festival - Berlin 2008 is a multimedia festival by women for women celebrating the 4 elements of Hip-Hop and more. We B*Girlz wants to present a strong role model for adolescent girls. We want to show that women master skills in all aspects of Hip-Hop and have earned a place in Hip-Hop history. We will celebrate their creativity with a one-month festival in August 2008 in Berlin, Germany with workshops, panels, exhibitions, screenings, battles, shows and concerts. The event series will close with a big two-day festival with battles, shows and concerts on August 29 and 30. www.bgirlz.com

About Where My Ladies At?:
Where My Ladies At? is an interactive film website that encourages dialogue about "pop culture porn" through blogs, video diaries, SMS forums, and conversations with female Hip Hop pioneers. Although Where My Ladies At? targets Hip Hop, the film tackles larger societal issues and can be used to discuss issues of pop culture, sexuality and media representation with young people. The film is both a critique and celebration of Hip Hop, and women's accomplishments are showcased in a timeline of artists and pioneers. www.wheremyladiesat.com.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

blog FAQs

While sifting through my buckets of rap-superstar fan-mail each day, I occasionally come across a letter sent regarding this blog. Now since I’m expecting a traffic spike when my new album is released, I figured I’d share a few of the more common questions as a kind of introduction to what this blog is about:

Q: Dear Guante, aren’t blogs for weirdos?
A: I know some pretty great people who keep up blogs, but your point is well taken. “WHY IS GUANTE SO ANGRY” is my space to experiment with the interplay of politics, art and writing. I can do it at my own pace, in my own style. This isn’t an MP3 blog, it’s not an endless string of youtubes, it’s not linking to whatever political issue or indie band is hot today so I can get lots of traffic, and it’s not a collection of well-researched, well-structured news articles or essays. This is me, writing about whatever the hell I feel like writing about, haphazardly. Oddly enough, a certain number of people find that compelling, even when it’s just a whole month of me talking about how great my album is, so I try to post a couple times per week.

Q: Dear Guante, who the hell are you to tell me what to think?
A: In terms of why this blog is special, I guess I’ll just say that I think I have a fairly unique perspective because of who/what I am: I’m a full-time artist (rapper/performance poet), but I’ve also worked as a freelance writer, social justice educator and activist, and more. Because of this cosmic synergy, I tend to have a lot to talk about. It doesn’t always make it to the blog, but some of it does. Also, I’m a genius.

Q: Dear Guante, why aren’t there more pictures on your blog?
A: Shut up. There are plenty. I post pictures with at least one of out of five entries, and if that isn’t enough to tickle your neurons then maybe you should go read a picture book or watch “Waking Life” again. Pictures slow down some browsers too. I’m a writer, damn it; this ain’t Nah Right.

Q: Dear Guante, if I were a hater and wanted to make you look bad, could I go through your old entries and find stupid things you said when you were a 19 year-old kid?
A: No. I’ve never said anything stupid, ever. I am perfect.

Q: Dear Guante, will you review my album?
A: I thought about reviewing stuff more regularly here, but I’m still not sure I want to. For one, I’m very, very critical, and almost any review would be negative. For two, it’d be hard to get past the ethical stuff since I’m also an artist—not impossible (I’ve done it before), but that might cause some unnecessary drama. For three, I don’t get paid for this blog and I’m not trying to give myself assignments.

Q: Dear Guante, I’ve tried and tried, but I just don’t get things like satire or sarcasm or humor of any kind. Can I still read your blog?
A: Of course; just wear shin-guards.

Q: Dear Guante, I want to read your hard-hitting political critiques of the issues of the day, not a recap of your last little rap show in Tinytown Iowa. What’s the deal?
A: I humbly beg for your forgiveness. Honestly, though, I find that it’s hard for me to write about a lot of the issues I care about because I have a fixation on trying to be original and the internet is so full of great information. If that makes any sense. You can read about Iraq, for instance, on a million different blogs. I’ll throw out an opinion here or there if I don’t hear anyone else saying it, but for the most part I try to offer something new. I could post every day about how bad the Bush administration is or how boring mainstream hip hop is, but I’d rather offer a different kind of commentary (see the articles looking at sexism and homophobia in underground hip hop, for example). Also, I blog about my shows moreso for my own records, like a journal or diary—I try to keep a balance between that stuff and the analysis-oriented stuff, but whatever.

Q: Dear Guante, DUDE YOU SHOULD BLOG ABOUT (insert totally-awesome indie rapper here)! HE’S SO COOL!
A: Everyone you love and respect is garbage. Leave me alone.

Q: Dear Guante, sometimes you say one thing, and then in a subsequent post, you contradict yourself. Or you’ll write a post about how a certain kind of song is boring, and then write that song. What gives?
A: You’re just misinterpreting my nuance. Your brain isn’t working at the level it needs to be. It should be fast, like a laser. Also, as far as sins go, one could do a lot worse than hypocrisy.

Q: Dear El Guante, digital revolution blah blah blah Web 2.0 blah blah blah, democratization of media blah blah blah?
A: Indeed. I’ll give a straight answer: I look at this blog as an extension of my art. It’s just about expression, about building community through communication. Being able to reach out and talk to people over any distance is pretty great. I’m as brooding and cynical as they get, but I have to admit that this internet stuff is beautiful.

Q: Dear Guante, will you come be a paid staff blogger for my newspaper or magazine?
A: More than likely. Make an offer. I love the freedom I have here, but I also love eating at fancy restaurants. I’ll sell my soul for some good cheesecake. Holla.