‘Until The Quiet Comes’: More Than a Music Video

Flying Lotus tapped the ridiculously talented filmmaker Kahlil Joseph to direct the visual preview for his highly anticipated album – ‘Until the Quiet Comes.’ Mr. Joseph has a way with directing, oftentimes intersecting space, time and universes in film. If you don’t believe me, please check out his modern-day adaptation of Oshun, the Yoruba goddess of love in  The Model: Part 1 – Marcello in Limbo and The Model: Part 2 – Oshun and the Dream.  The black and white diptych achieved cinematic and musical grace via the talents of super genius cinematographer (and fellow Howard U. alum) Bradford Young and Brasil’s easy on the eyes and ears,  actor-singer Seu Jorge. But I digress.

‘Until the Quiet Comes’ –  a poetic, dramatic and magical short film –  tells three stories, that of a Black boy child, that of a Black man and that of the Black community from whence they both come. It is tragic as it is beautiful, and forces us all to reflect on the many moments that lead to a young soul’s demise. At once, the tale reminded me of Charlie LeDuff’s poignant essay “What Killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones?” Through an examination of a large system of economic decay, violence, corruption, and internalized white supremacy, LeDuff illustrates an often-times invisible web of incidents that lead to the loss of individual lives, in which we are all ultimately as guilty as the misguided individual that pulled the trigger.

Equally appreciated in this piece is the inclusion of Brooklyn’s own Storyboard P who is like Jay Electronica says, “bringing ancient mathematics back to modern man” via his choreography and dance technique.

I watched it. I cried. I watched it again. I cried. It moved me for many reasons and has continued to do so. This in not just a music video. It is a magical realist love story about the hood, from the hood.


P.S. The album officially drops on Oct. 1st but you can take a first listen here, compliments of NPR.
First Listen: Flying Lotus, ‘Until the Quiet Comes’

P.S.S. When you get a chance, check out the review penned by my play twin and Neo-Talented Tenth artist Terence Nance: On the Breathtakingly Beautiful Freedom in Kahlil Joseph’s ‘Until the Quiet Comes.’

When Things Aren’t So Black and White: Reacting to Race and Racism in the Netherlands

In less than a month of living in the Netherlands, I’ve learned that nothing here is a matter of black and white. As a new temporary transplant to Amsterdam from New York, I’m in the midst of a very eclectic group of people, whose identities, nationalities, and even individual family trees range from the darkest complexional hues to the whitest. On top of that, I’ve seen more interracial couples (of all backgrounds) than I’ve witnessed ever before in my life. So, for the first time ever, I’ve been situated smack dab in the middle of “multiculturalism.” Literally.

It may be hard to conceive for some, particularly for people outside of the U.S. but until now, I have lived most of my life, and definitely my adult life, in an all-Black environment.

Everyone that I socialize with, have gone to school with, lived around, dated or worked with, have been Black. Not necessarily African American – some of my closest friends are Ghanaian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Nigerian – but they’re all Black. Their parents are Black. They partners are Black. Their kids are Black. Everybody’s Black. Black, Black, Black, Black.

Since it may be hard to conceive, try to visualize this: I went to an all-Black high school for girls, followed by four years at Howard University (they don’t call it the Mecca for nothing). Upon graduating, I taught at a public school in middle of the hood in Northeast Washington, D.C. bka the Chocolate City (Although, with the current state of gentrification, it’s looking much more like the Vanilla City these days). Then I left D.C., moved to Germantown, Philadelphia (more Blackness), studied Africana Studies at Temple University (which is situated in the center of North Philly – the hood of all hoods).  While in graduate school, I worked at the city’s African American Museum. In 2007, I moved back to New Orleans Post-Katrina to revitalize a museum of African American art, owned by a Black surgeon. Then in 2009, I relocated to Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn (the same hood that gave birth to Biggie) and started working at an institution that focuses on what? Global Blackness.

So, living outside of both my comfort zone and security blanket has taken some adapting but is pretty damn fun and exciting. I’ve found myself surrounded by a social circle that quotes Noam Chomsky and Dave Chappelle in the same conversation. Yes, I’m highly entertained but more importantly, I’m learning.

But don’t get it a twisted – multicultural does not mean totally progressive. As blissful as my new experiences have been, there have also been moments where I’ve sat with my mouth agape in reaction to some blatant gesture of racism.

These incidents range from witnessing a Dutch academic refer to Latin Americans as barbarians during a university symposium on multiculturalism (which was actually the least of his offenses) to a maintenance man telling me early one morning that I didn’t need to drink coffee because I was already Black enough.  Huh?

The worst of these incidents was the afternoon I opened a magazine and saw the photo-shopped image of my friend, a nationally recognized Black Dutch (Antillean) theater artist and emerging public intellectual, with horns growing out of his head and a white girl dangling out of his mouth. It was on some King Kong meets Godzilla meets the antagonist in Birth of a Nation type ish. Then when he brought attention to it, he was made to feel like some kind of troublemaker. In the words of Washington, D.C. youth “where they do that at?” But get this, the theater where this happened wasn’t white…it is actually owned and run by Black people. Of course they eventually responded by having photo stickers printed and pasted over the original image in all of the magazines on their premises. (Unfortunately, however, when I walked into a local café a week later, I saw the magazine and was saddened to see that the original version was still in circulation).

On one hand, I wanted to blow-up the ordeal and make a fuss about it on my facebook page. On the other hand, I realized that while I may feel some kind of way and want to express solidarity, at the end of the day, I will be bringing my black American arse back to the East Coast, where they don’t do stuff like that.

Very quickly, I’ve come to understand that it’s not just a matter of being passive but as a dear friend here told me, it’s a matter of deliberately and intelligently, picking your battles. I can’t fathom, having to defend myself, respond or react to every single racist thing that happens here on a daily basis, and I’m merely a visitor. I had to be reminded of the fact that as a Black American, whose particular existence is grounded in learning and disseminating information about African Diasporan history, I have also been influenced by the various resistance movements that took place on U.S. soil throughout the ages. That makes me privileged. I am equipped with both the historical, socio-political-economic analysis AND furthermore, the tools needed to address these transgressions. For that, I do not have the right to turn up my self-righteous nose at the perceived passiveness in which people of African descent, broadly address (or not) racism in the Netherlands.

However, not everyone is drinking the kool-aid. Currently, there is a group of individuals, whose political views have provided a platform of solidarity in which to buck against the system. Hopefully, they will succeed in their mission. (Listen to an informative radio talk show here).

I am not in the position to judge. I recognize the need for Afro-Europeans and in this instance, Black Dutch, to formulate their own resistance identity – one that is grounded in the nuanced experiences of their own realities and not one birthed from the revolutionary movements  and ideologies of Afro-America. Upon this formulation, it is then our responsibility to validate their perspective and provide a broader platform from which they can be heard and supported, across the Diaspora.

Covert European Ku Klux Klandom aside, I love it here. My cultural cornucopia of friends is incredible and there’s always something exciting happening. I live in a tiny but plush apartment in the land where tulips meet legalized prostitution, where white people dress up in blackface during Christmas (see Zwarte Piet is Racisme…more on that later), where your olfactory sense is aroused by magical herbs floating out of coffeeshops and where this Black American girl from New Orleans makes her way around town on an all-black bike named Touissant. This is my life…outside of the box.

Living La Vida Loca | Havana Nights

Call me sadity but I was a little ambivalent about traveling to Cuba for the second occasion in a two-year period. Granted, it took me years, and I do mean years, of plotting, scheming, pleading and dreaming of traveling to the forbidden red island. However, when you have a wanderlust such as mine, and you’re in a competition against both Uncle Traveling Matt and Carmen San Diego to see who will get the most passport stamps, you’re not trying to double dip in the international travel pot. Considering the fact that this was a trip sponsored by my job, the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, and that I actually love the work that I do, I quickly got over my indifference and prepared myself for all that Havana and the 11th Biennial, had to offer.  Little did I know, this particular Harlem to Havana excursion would turn out to be one of the best, no scratch that – maybe the most FUN trips I’ve ever taken in my life.

1) Turkey boas: The first recommendation upon recreating my life-enhancing trip to Castroland would be to travel with a compañera. Make sure said traveling buddy is smart, a ham and a little on the bourgeoisie side. In my case, my roomie for the trip was an artist I’ve worked with previously (see CCCADI’s Dirty Sensibilities: A 21st Century Exploration of the New American Black South). In addition to being a bad-ass photographer since the age of 12 (no seriously, I installed a series of images she shot as a mid-schooler), she’s also a 3rd Year PhD student in NYU’s American Studies Program. All that aside, Allison Janae Hamilton is pure comedy. Not only did she get the jokes, she co-conspired in the creation of plenty more based on incidents ranging from why a closed mouth don’t get flan to why the Military Scene (see Paris is Burning) doesn’t call for turkey boas.

2) Share a nightcap with the elders (or any other drink at any other time of day for that matter):

When traveling to Cuba, make sure you travel with a pack of wise-cracking, former pot smoking, Afrocentric senior citizens. Trust me, the stories, the jokes and the encouragement they’ll give you to get it in with the young Cuban dandies while you’re “on the up side of the mountain” will be well worth the slower walks during tours of Old Havana and the amount of repetition you’ll be forced to perform due to not speaking loud enough in one’s good ear.

3) When in doubt, say you’re from Jamaica (pronounced high-may-ca in a Cuban accent):

The first thing any person in any part of the Diaspora assumes when they see you, the Black American, walking down the street, is basically, that you’re a Black American. Unlike my experience walking through the markets of Cairo where vendors shouted “Obama! Brown Sugar!” every two and a half feet, in Cuba, “America” was their assumption and it was good as gold. Of course, to acknowledge that you are American, albeit Black American (and somehow, the press manages to leave out the fact Black Americans collectively have less wealth than white Americans on average), is to say hey, I have money, so feel free to hustle me. Well, if you have natural hair, whenever they yell this out, just simply say you’re from Jamaica. The immediate response will be, “aaahhh, Hi-may-ca. Bob Marley! Rasta. Bless.” As we say in New Orleans, “get it how you live.” I’d rather be seen as a Rasta woman than a basketball wife any day of the week.

All these shenanigans aside, I worked my butt off (insert technicality here in case my boss happens to read this little candid travel log), saw lots of great art, met some pretty incredible people, and experienced serendipity at is finest. For more info about where to go when you do visit, go to my facebook page. In the meantime, you’ll find me still vibing off those wonderful memories, walking around with a few CUC in my wallet, refusing to stop living la vida loca!

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