Jordan Vaslekey Bliss Bailey

13 April 2009 at 11:53 pm (Family) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Friends and Family,

As promised, we are sending photos and news about our newest arrival. We want to welcome Jordan Vaslekey Bliss Bailey to you, and the community. Born April 6th, 2009 at 11:54am, at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, he was 7lbs 15oz. He is beautiful and healthy, and so is Mama Sha.

Being artists, there is always a story to tell. As I was saying towards the end of the pregnancy, the baby was not only a good listener but was also already learning about his parents’ busy lives and schedules, and decided to wait until after April 3rd (the Urban Griots Awards show) before his arrival. On Saturday, as we were resting from the work intensive and incredible Urban Griots Awards, we received an email from our Doula about how to naturally induce labor. Even though we wanted him to wait until after April 3rd, we didn’t want him to wait too long, also the doctor advised that if the baby did not arrive by Monday (April 6th) we’d have to induce. So Saturday night, we ordered Eggplant Parmesan from Bucas (which Sha ate twice) and watched movies. On Sunday, we went to a doctors appointment, to make sure the baby was doing okay, and to also figure out if we’d need to induce on Monday. On the way back from the hospital, we stopped at the Village Wok and ordered a very spicy plate of Udon noodles (Sha’s favorite) and took it home, for more rest and a movie night. Less than 2 hours after eating the noodles, Sha looked at me and said, ‘I think my water broke.’ We gathered our pre-packed bags and headed to the hospital. Once they confirmed the water had broken, we couldn’t leave the hospital and the adventure of birth began. After a night of contractions, breathing, tears and laughter, the little man arrived mid-day on Monday. We prayed for a natural and safe delivery and quick, and all of our prayers were answered. We left the hospital on Wednesday, and have been home adjusting and taking care of baby since. Before we left the hospital we were lucky enough to have B Fresh come down and take some photos. They are beautiful as always. We hope you enjoy them too.

In honor of tradition, we wanted to wait 7 days before naming, and introducing, the newborn. We raise up Jordan Vaslekey Bliss Bailey.

Jordan is a name that both Sha and I have always wanted for our child. It’s a beautiful name, and has a number of powerful meanings.

Vaslekey was the name by which my African grandfather was called. A traveling Mandinka merchant from Guinea, he settled in Saclepea (Nimba County, Liberia) and built a farm. There he met and married my grandmother, Mayamu, from the Mano tribe of Liberia. The Mandinka people (also known as Mandingo or Malinke) are descendants of the Empire of Mali and the great king Sundiata Keita. They have rich oral, spiritual and musical tradition, and carry on the griot tradition. They are also part of the Mande linguistic group, of which the Mano people are also a part. The Mano people are believed to have migrated to Liberia from northern savannas in the 15th century. My grandfather’s surname was Slekey, and Va mean Father. So he was called Vaslekey, meaning Father Slekey. Because that is what he was so commonly known as, Vaslekey, was listed for my African mother’s (Massa) surname when my birth certificate was filled out. She is now known as Massa Sirleaf. My grandfather was a very tall and powerful man, with ‘hands the circled the world’ as I have often described. His strength and exploits are still told to this day. During my life here in the U.S., he has often visited me in my dreams, usually as I am preparing for a new journey or a major life change, such as during college, and as I was preparing to return home to Africa in 1999. He visited me several times during the pregnancy.

Bliss is the family name of my American mother, part of the Bliss/Cook family line. They are the family that nurtured and raised me in the U.S. Several sons of the family fought in the Civil War. Her grandfather went to the University of Virginia, and came North with one of Katherine Hepburn’s uncles, because there were no jobs in the area in the post Civil War era. Lines of the family have roots in Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Bailey is my paternal family name. It is not Irish as most people think, but rather Old English, from the the Old French ‘bailiff’ and/or Scottish ‘bailie’. From my Uncle’s research on our family history, he discovered that members of our family arrived in the U.S. on the Mayflower. My father was born in Rochester, New York; attended Colgate University; served in the Peace Corps in Liberia, during which time I was born; and returned to the U.S. and became a teacher.

I wanted to have a Cage family name but Sha felt that four names was quite enough. Lol. Of course, all this is not to put any pressure on the new one, but to celebrate the histories and traditions that are part of his lineage; and so that you may know him a little better. We will celebrate whoever and whatever he becomes.

We are so excited and blessed. And we thank you all once again for your prayers and support.

Blessings,

e.g. (and Sha)

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Born Day: Jordan Vaslekey Bliss Bailey

6 April 2009 at 11:54 am (Family) (, )

Jordan Vaslekey Bliss Bailey is born on 11:54am on April 6th, 2009, at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. He is 7lbs 15oz and 20.5 inches.

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‘Home at Last’: Interview in MSHALE MAGAZINE

5 February 2009 at 4:00 pm (Family, Film, Music, News, Press, Releases, Spoken Word, Theatre) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

eg-bailey-on-the-road-b-freshphoto by B Fresh Photography

Liberian-American Spoken-Word Artist is Home at Last
Justin Schell , Contributing Writer

“This is a year of completion for me,” e.g. bailey says in the office of Trú Rúts Endeavors, the multidisciplinary arts organization that he runs with his wife, Shá Cage.

His struggle to fit in America is not unlike that of many African immigrants. He attributes his success as an award-winning multidisciplinary artist and producer to this struggle of finding a home away from home.

bailey, who was born in Saclepea, Liberia, is the son of a white Peace Corps volunteer and a Liberian mother. His father, bailey says, “threw a dart, hit Liberia, and that’s where he got stationed.” His mother gave birth to him near the end of his father’s second term; and his parents lost touch after his father’s return to America.

Even as a child he loved music and theater: two memories stand out in particular from his life in Liberia.

“There was a record store and a movie theater,” he says. “I would spend hours in the record store listening to whatever they were playing.”

The owner of the mud-constructed movie theater, however, wasn’t particularly keen on offering free entertainment to they young movie revelers. “We would either sneak into the movie theater or we would drill holes in the side to watch the movie.” After the owner realized this, he would take blindingly-hot Liberian red peppers, soak them in water, and put the mixture in a spray bottle, and spray into the holes to temporarily prevent onlookers from watching the film without paying. “It would be this constant game of trying to outwit [him], as soon as you saw a shadow coming.”

One day, another Peace Corps volunteer came to his village and, after getting to know him, expressed interest in adopting him. Instead it was his father who ended up adopting the 10-year-old Bailey after she sought out his father through the Peace Corps database.

After landing in Chicago, he was driven to his new home in Crystal Lake, an hour-and-a-half from Chicago. There was a parade the day he arrived, with money thrown from the floats.

“I thought it was a parade for me!” he says with a laugh. “The next day, I wake up, I’m like ‘Ok, when are we going to the parade and when can we get more money?’ That was the start of my life in the US.”

Reality soon set in for bailey as he learned that life in America was not rosy for a new immigrant, “It was a struggle of trying to adapt and trying to fit in. Trying to figure out who I am and not fitting into any place, I always felt like I was running, that I couldn’t stop moving.”

Until he moved to Minneapolis, when he felt, “Ok, I can stop running now.”

bailey’s first connection to Minneapolis came not through the city itself, but through one of its most famous musicians. “I discovered Prince in [Crystal Lake’s] record store. I think it was “Little Red Corvette.” My ears just perked up, trying to find out who this person was, and I proceeded to get everything that he put out.”

After moving to Minneapolis, he started performing solo and with a number of music groups, and worked in the retail division of Prince’s famed Paisley Park complex, gaining crucial experience to navigate the shady mazes of the music industry when he formed Trú Rúts and its record label, Speakeasy Records.

He had a life-changing experience on a trip to the country of his birth after being gone for nearly 20 years. He returned to Liberia in 1999 as part of a four-month trip to Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. The trip, while crucial to his development as an artist as well as a person, was not what he expected.

“I realized that I could go back, but I could never live back home. I’d been away too long to be able to go back home and do what I’m supposed to do.”

An overwhelming and inane sense of homelessness hit him, he says, “going home displaces you. You’re no longer at home in either place. Home is what I had to create.”

Thus homelessness and travel inform all of bailey’s work, which symbolically channels his own experience through the larger histories of the African Diaspora. His album American African, scheduled for release in April, will appropriately feature a host of both American Africans and African Americans, including M.anifest, DJ Stage One, Mankwe Ndosi, IBé, and other international artists, including Germany’s Starskie and Dubai’s Abstrakt Collision.

“It’s a testament to where African Americans and American Africans are,” he says, encompassing the multitude of African, African American, and American African perspectives. “I want to avoid the idea of a monolithic Africa as much as possible.”

The first single off of American African, “America,” is a wide-ranging vision of the post-9/11 America that many immigrants find themselves in.

“America, I miss you,” bailey intones at its opening. He delivers his words atop a bed of rolling drums and cymbals, electric bass, disorienting electronic sounds, and wailing saxophone. From Katrina to Guantanamo, Hollywood to Baghdad, the poem subtly welds together the long histories of racism and murder that stain America’s past, yet without completely destroying the hope of something better. In the end, the music dies away as bailey softly, powerfully, declares “We’re waiting for your resurrection.”

bailey has an ambitious plan to release three more albums in 2009 that have been at various stages of completion throughout his work with Trú Rúts. Yet completion always breeds the start of something new, whether it be the release of new albums from other artists in the Trú Rúts family such as Quilombolas, TruthMaze, or El Guante. Or the birth of his first child with his wife Shá Cage.

Even though e.g. bailey has settled in one place after a long journey, his creative activity and poetic journeys show no signs of slowing down.

e.g bailey has produced “No Longer at Ease” (play), an adaption from the Chinua Achebe’s novel for the Pangea World Theatre in May 2001; “Village Blues” (film); and “Words Will Heal the Wound”, a spoken word radio series celebrating the diverse poetic traditions in Minnesota.

He received the Sarah Lawrence College International Film Festival (2001) Experimental Film award for Village Blues; the NFCB (National Federation of Community Broadcasters) award for Write On RaDio!; and the Worldstaff Houston International Festival (1999) Experimental Film award for Village Blues.

Visit his website for a full listing of productions, performances and awards: www.myspace.com/egbailey or www.egbailey.com.

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From Chains to Change: Spokesman Recorder MLK Commerative Issue

22 January 2009 at 9:00 am (Family, Press, Writings) (, , , , , , )

from-chains-to-change-spokesman-recorder-obama-special-600pxlIn the arch of Obama’s journey, unwavering faith
by e.g. bailey

After screams of joy at the news, the first thing I did when the election of President Obama was announced was to call my mother and my brother. They were both in South Dakota, where my brother lay in bed suffering from liver cancer. She had traveled from Atlanta to be by his side.

On this night, I felt a great urge to call my brother. Not to give him hope, because his case was terminal; they projected less than three months to live. On this night, I didn’t want to discuss the gravity of the situation, or medicine, or death. I simply wanted to share with him the overwhelming joy and relief, the poignancy of this moment in the lives of all Americans, but especially in the lives of African Americans, and likewise Africans in America.

In the face of his suffering, I wanted him to feel the pride in knowing the heights that an African had achieved in this country, to know that an African had “reached the mountaintop.” When I told him the news, he released a full-hearted laugh, saying, “Thank God, Brother Eric. This is a great thing. Thank you.”

Four hundred years ago an African would have been in bondage, toiling under slavery, his life and death balanced on the whim of his oppressors. And, less than 50 years ago, the descendants of that African could not vote, could not share the same bathroom, the same drinking fountain, or eat in the same restaurants with their fellow Americans. But here, in this moment, an African had achieved the highest office in this country, perhaps in the world.

And in the arc of that journey was embodied the faith, the determination, the wonder and the achievements of all who had paid the price of the ticket, including our shining princes, Martin and Malcolm.

At the annual Thanksgiving dinner with the Cage family, I was speaking with my young nephew Rashaan after he had recited the dinner grace. I asked him if he was going to be preacher like his father. He replied, without missing a beat, “Yes. And I’m also going to become president.”

I cannot remember the last time a Black child had claimed such a dream for himself or herself and thought it possible, a dream no longer the faith of struggle and imagination, but a dream now feasible and actual. And on January 20, standing in the shadow of not only Lincoln but also Martin, that dream will be commemorated.

published in Minneapolis Spokesman Recorder
22 January 2009

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Final Words: Playwright’s Statement

4 May 2001 at 9:00 am (Family, Shows, Theatre, Work Notes, Writings) (, , , , , )

No Longer At Ease
Final Words: Playwright’s Statement
e.g. bailey

Achebe is our Elder. For many of us, he is the famed griot teaching us our history, while telling us a great story. Nearly every Afrikan I spoke with about the play said they had read Achebe, perhaps not all his works but the least of all Things Fall Apart. For some, he was mandatory reading. And he should be, at least for all of us of Afrikan descent. Achebe’s goal, which he fully accepts, is to help us reclaim our stories, to help us to understand that our history was rich, and our stories beautiful before our subjugation at the hands of Europe. He states, “Here then is an adequate revolution for me to espous–to help my society regain belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-abasement.” But he is fully aware that this reclamation is not simply a glorification of what we were and who we are, and perhaps even who we want to be, but dealing fully with our past, even facing up to our hand in the matter. Earlier in the same essay he says, “What we need to do is to look back and try and find out where we went wrong, where the rain began to beat us.” In his most recent essay, he writes, “I know that such a tremendously potent and complex reinvention of self–calling, as it must do, on every faculty of mind and soul and spirit; drawing as it must, from every resource of memory and imagination and from a familiarity with our history, our arts and culture; but also from an unflinching consciousness of the flaws that blemished our inheritance…” For him the greatest danger is not remembering the agonies of the past but forgetting them. Though he was speaking about Nigeria after the Biafrian War, I think that statement strikes a deep cord in the consciousness of Afrikans and Afrikan Americans alike. In order to accept our selves and our beauty, we must also be able to accept our scars. And the story of Obi Okonkwo not only celebrates our culture but also forces us to face the difficulties our own culture can present us as we try to evolve into the future, as we try to negotiate and synthesize our existence in an everchanging world and yet hold on to our traditions. An epigraph from Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, could serve as a apt summary of the conflict in No Longer At Ease, and even a metaphor for the current state of many Afrikan countries: “The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interrengnum there arises a great diversity of morbid symptoms.” Obi’s tragedy is that he finds himself at the epicenter of this rift. And it is these rifts in our history and encounter with Western culture about which Achebe writes: The arrival of Europeans in Things Fall Apart and the dawning of independence in No Longer At Ease. But these are not simply historical and physical rifts, but primarily psychological ones.

The journey of creating this work has been incredible and a blessing, but not without its struggle and at times exasperation. However, within it, I have discovered a great deal about myself and my people. I have felt in many ways like an apprentice in the company of a profound elder. Yet also, I have discovered that Obi’s story is in many ways my own. There is no conflict that Obi deals with that I have not encountered in one form or another in my experiences both in Afrika and here. These are dilemmas that all of us as Afrikans in America must deal with in our prodigal relationship with our home. But it is not our province alone, even my eldest brother residing in Ivory Coast deals with it as he struggles with his acceptance of Christianity and the traditional spiritual beliefs of our Grandfather, who reared him.

In the Igbo culture there is a tradition called the Mbari celebration. With this tradition, representatives from the community are chosen to prepare a festival of images in honor of Ala, the Earth goddess. The chosen representatives, ordinary citizens of the community and artists alike, go off into seclusion to create their works of art, which they present to the community during the ceremony. They are left alone to create, supported and fed by the community, sometimes for two years. That in many ways is what I see as the role of the artists that have come together to create this work, that speaks for and about the community, with its beauty and flaws. We can only hope that you enjoy our “home of images” as much as the villagers enjoy the Mbari ceremony.

Thanks enough cannot be given to Pangea World Theater for this incredible opportunity, for their faith and trust. Abundant thanks to my future wife, Sha Cage, without whose support, love and input this work would not be. And love and thanks to all the artists involved in this project for their brilliant gifts, from crew to cast, to support network to the whole Pangea family. Thanks to Chinua Achebe, for his work and for giving us permission to bring it to stage. To the Igbo community and Ummune Cultural Association. Special thanks to Hannatu Tongrit-Green, Onyebuchi Njaka, Larry Ubani and Flora Okwa. Also to Susan Robeson, Mimi Girma and J. Otis Powell!. The Playwrights’ Center for their development support. To parents: George and Ginny Bailey. To friends and family. I dedicate this work to my grandparents: Vaslekey and Mayamu. And to my mother, Massa Vaslekey Sirleaf. Without “We” I am nothing.

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