Hey there! Thanks for keeping up with me through my little newsletter. Here is a bit of what’s in store below.
As always, holler back my way with anything that’s catching your eye or moving your heart.
I’ve found myself pulling out gems from a few different interview/conversation pieces in these past few weeks. Here are three of them, each worth the full read if you are into art, teaching, and education spaces.
This Philly conversation between John Morrison and King Britt has so many gems in it about teaching, teaching music, teaching Black electronic music – and simply the cultural dimensions that surround all teaching. Whenever I read an interview with Britt, I end up jotting down a few artists, songs, producers, etc. he mentioned on my “Okay, I didn’t know THAT and need to know more” list. I think Britt’s position as teacher-scholar-artist makes his interviews work in this way. In this particular interview, I love the last part and not just because they mention Dilla.
JM: Can you give me a final word about what you’ve learned about how Black folks engage with electronic music from teaching this course?
KB: For us, these are just tools to enhance what we already have in our existence, in our DNA, as far as rhythm. So if you want to talk about Dilla – the drum machine and samplers enhanced what he already had in him, right? The way he beat programs, not using quantification on everything, he’s putting his humanness in. All Black folks put their humanness into the electronic instrument. The tools propel what our sound is to a whole other level.
There is also a great part where Britt talks about an assignment in his Blacktronika course at UC San Diego where he has his students dance. Mind you, this is not a dance class.
One of the house music assignments was to pick your favourite house song from a classic house mix, you know, Marshall Jefferson, all this stuff. Pick one of your favourites and make a dance video to dance and get into your body. This is dance music; music to move to, not just to listen to.
The excerpt reminds me of a practice I adopted from scholar and educator Joe Scholss, who – if I remember correctly – once said he had students in his hip-hop class dance together at the start. This was to get across the point that even if it’s not in a dance class, hip-hop is a bodily experience. I adopted this practice into my BreakBeat Lit grad seminar two years ago. The start of every class was us standing in a circle together, listening to one classic break from the sonic foundation of hip-hop, and moving our bodies to it however felt right. And then we would talk about the experience. We did this 10 times over the semester, and part of the final exam asked students to identify each of these breaks we “danced” to.
Activating the Art Gallery
I enjoyed this whole interview with educator, scholar, and music producer Blair Ebony Smith. She talks about her installation Homemade, with Love: More Living Room at the Krannert Art Museum in Illinois. In the interview she talks about how the installation is a method of homemaking for interactive sessions with Black girls.
This year we did interactive sessions with a small group, which are private with Black girls and so it’s just us, and so we used the exhibition space as a studio, gathering place. We have different rituals that we do, and then we do different activities that get us talking, playing, being with, and getting to know each other as a group. Getting to know each other often involves engaging sensation through play, art-making and thinking that remembers Black girls and us together.
It’s really important that these sessions are not just a matter of bringing Black girls to the gallery. There is movement in all directions, with Blair holding space in schools, communities, online, etc. too.
One thing I didn’t expect in this interview was how seamlessly Blair ties in other artists whose work is in resonance with Homemade, with Love. These include Nimot Ogunfemi, Bernice Reagan, M. Jacqui Alexander, Jen Everett, cyan cian, Kamari Smalls, Tiffany Harris, Jessica Robinson, J. California Cooper, and more. So like the interview with King Britt, I’m furiously adding to my “Okay, I didn’t know THAT and need to know more” from this piece too.
An interview with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva where is gives this good part:
But it’s not solvable until we accept first that racism is systemic. We need to do deep interventions to remove race as a system of practices that produce inequality. Advantages for some (Whites) and disadvantages for others (nonwhites). For most people, racism is something performed and enacted by bad people. But the more we look at bad actors, the less we understand how systems of inequality operate. All systems of inequality operate by becoming systemic, that is, by incorporating most people into the game—some as beneficiaries and some as subordinated actors.
I finally made time to type up a thought exercise about theories of change in racial consciousness. I developed this a few years ago through the Race, Pedagogy, and Lit workshop series. The exercise seemed to generate some useful conversation, such to the degree that I thought about expanding the exercise into an article. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get around to that, and either way, I think the exercise is too important to keep in the lab under uncertain circumstances. So I just typed up a “here’s what I did” sequence with slides and all. Check it out here.
I’ve achieved the status of First Shitty Draft of the essay I’ve been working on about theories of change in activist education research. Now I have it out to some friends for feedback. My wrestling with these questions brought me to the conclusion that I should just organize a symposium on this topic for an upcoming conference and build it around the questions. So I hollered at some people I respect and this is what came of it:
This symposium features scholars exploring the contradictions and theories of change at work in education research activist formations. This term refers to entities separate from universities and where education research or researchers play some kind of role toward dismantling ongoing systems of oppression. Education researchers may serve as founders, act in leadership positions, or use education research in their public-facing advocacy or abolitionist efforts. The formations represented by participants in this symposium are: Abolitionist Teaching Network, Scholars for Black Lives, Education for Liberation Network MN Chapter, Derute worker cooperative, Teachers 4 Social Justice, and Critical Resistance. Such formations exist in a variety of ways, but they are not centers or institutes constituted by universities or tethered to individual scholar’s professional trajectories. They exist largely outside of higher education institutions because, as products and extensions of ongoing settler colonialism, institutions on their own cannot bring about liberatory ends.
That last sentence burns just a little bit, doesn’t it?
Out behind the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit right now is the Brood exhibit, which takes its name from the 2005 short story collection Octavia’s Brood, edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha. Here is the exhibit description:
The exhibit Brood suggests a tradition of working at the intersection of art, science, and community organizing that is characteristically unique to Detroit. Brood casts the artist as visionary of a more just and sustainable society. The exhibiting artists find inspiration from Science Fiction but show us a world within reach and forge pathways to those realities. They build, deconstruct, reframe, warn, and prepare. They prioritize sensory experiences to tell stories about our past, present, and future. Recognizing technology’s inevitable place in our society, they seek to harness its power for humanism over surveillance, for collectivism, and empathy over individual gain.
The first thing you see in the outside portion of the exhibit is this piece by Bryce Detroit.
This is a companion piece to the HOOD CLOSED TO GENTRIFIERS sign that went viral a while back, with not too many people giving credit to Bryce.
The Brood exhibit also has a series of quilts by Mother Cyborg called Sense of Security. If you look close, you can see the quilts integrate binary code and, in doing so, offer a kind of commentary on data and digital surveillance.
Boxed Behavior (2021)
Platforms Keep Us Segregated (2020)
The Thing Inside of the Thing (2020)
While we’re in Detroit, here are some shots from back ally doors off of Gratiot Ave. during a recent trip to People’s Records.
Here is a range of sounds I’ve been listening to the past few weeks. Click on the images to listen.
Stuff I Made
What do you get when you cross an M.O.P. song about robbing people with a sweet soul 45? You get “Ante Up In Love,” a short remix I finished. Click on the image to check it out.
Mixes I’m playing
The “Rhythm Section” mix by Mike Wallace and QSTN is what I play when I need to get a single task done. It’s 30 minutes long, not too many lyrics, and tight mixing across some jazz tracks.
Some wild techno, electronic, drum machine stuff in Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry.
Last year around this time I sent out issue #28, From Russia with Buzz, which is about the mysterious Russian shortwave radio signal “The Buzzer” that nobody has ever claimed to run. I’m not kidding.