New Beginnings: The Story of Liberians in Minnesota

16 February 2011 at 9:00 am (News, Radio) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

New Beginnings: The Story of  Liberians in Minnesota

For some time now, Minnesota has been a refuge for immigrant communities displaced from their homes due to a variety of circumstances. One of these communities is the Liberian community, which grew rapidly in the aftermath of a series of civil wars that ravished their country. However the story of Liberians in Minnesota does not begin with these civil wars but stretches back more than 50 years.

In this radio documentary, we look at this history, along with the growth and development of the community. In a series of conversations with a wide-range of Liberians in Minnesota including Wynfred Russell, Abdullai Kiatamba, Piso Tarr, Yeamah Brewer, Mameneh George, Charles Dennis and others, in addition to other prominent figures in the community including State Representative Keith Ellison, professor of history Peter Rachleff and theatre director Wendy Knox, this programs provides an overview of where the Liberian community in Minnesota stands today, the contributions it has made to the state and what the future holds.

The documentary is produced by Liberian-American artist e.g. bailey, and his partner Sha Cage. The three-part documentary will air on KFAI Fresh Air Radio (90.3fm Minneapolis/106.7fm St. Paul) on February 16th, 21st and 23rd at 7:30pm. It can also be streamed online at wwww.kfai.org.

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E.G. Bailey + Sha Cage on Write On RaDio!

18 February 2010 at 11:00 am (Music, News, Press, Radio, Releases, Shows, Spoken Word) (, , , , , )

e.g. bailey and Sha Cage join us to talk about the CD release party for e.g.’s new album, “American Afrikan,” an encyclopedic mix of spoken word, hip hop, funk, jazz, and more. The release party is Saturday, Feb. 20th starting at 9:30 p.m. at Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis and will feature performances by Guante, Sha Cage, Mankwe Ndosi, J. Otis Powell, Truthmaze, and more.

Also on this show, we talk with Marisha Chamberlain about her new novel The Rose Variations, the story of Rose McGregor, a talented composer navigating academia in the early days of feminism. Marisha Chamberlain is also a playwright, poet, and librettist.

Listen to interview here.

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e.g. bailey Debuts “AMERICAN AFRIKAN” on Collective Eye

11 February 2010 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Press, Radio, Releases, Shows) (, , , )

e.g. bailey Debuts “AMERICAN AFRIKAN” on Collective Eye
Janis Lane-Ewart (KFAI)

Collective Eye host, Janis Lane-Ewart, interviews Twin Cities spoken word artist, poet, entrepreneur, e.g. bailey Thursday, February 11th. His new cd, AMERICAN AFRIKAN officially drops on Saturday, February 20th at The Bedlam Theater. Learn about e.g’s work with Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records, mentorship of young poets, and other scintillating tales from Afrika to America. Tune in and/or call in with your questions at 612.341.0980 at 10:30 p.m.

Listen to interview here.

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Word Beat I Powa 2009

22 April 2009 at 2:00 am (News, Poems, Radio, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

echo chamber logoNote: Each year, the Echo Chamber presents their annual ‘Word Beat I Powa’ dub poetry special. The special brings together a great collection of dub poetry with ventures into beat poetry and spoken word. It’s consistently one of my favorite shows of the year, and turns me on to new dub poetry and spoken word. I’ve had the privilege of being a guest on the show in the past, and am blessed to be featured on the show. Below is information on this year’s special.

On April 22, 2009 the Echo Chamber presented the annual “Word Beat I Powa” dub poetry, beat poetry, and spoken word special. Of course, it was dub poetry that set the foundation and included the dub poets Oku Onoura, Mutabaruka, Royal African Soldiers, Jean Binta Breeze, Benjamin Zephaniah, Oliver Smith, and of course, the incomparable Linton Kwesi Johnson. Other slices of dub poetry included the new Dub Gabriel track “Spirit Made Flesh” (featuring Karen Gibson Roc); the extremely chilled “No Ordinary Life” from JEN & Chin Chillaz; and the very cool “Dilly Dally” from the Brooklyn Funk Essentials (featuring Everton Sylvester). But there was more than dub poetry. As always, the “Word Beat I Powa” special included some beat poetry (with readings from Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, & Allen Ginsberg) and some great Jamaican DJs (including U-Roy, Prince Buster, I-Roy, and Dennis Alcapone). One of the highlighted rhymesayers was KFAI’s own e.g. bailey with his fantastic “America” and 2 other poems (including “Griots”). Finally, we included poems and other spoken word gems from Jah Wobble (feat. Ronnie Drew); the new Heavyweight Dub Champions album (feat. Dr. Israel & Elf Transporter); Cool Hipnoise (feat. Last Poets); The Fire This Time (feat. Assata Shakur); Dr. Echo (feat. Solange St.Croix); Symarip (aka Roy Ellis); Dr. Ring-Ding; and the incomparable Ken Nordine. And, to complete the word-beat chaos, DJ Baby Swiss included the “Green Slime” trailer and soundbytes from the original “Space Ghost” cartoon on top of some heavy taiko beats from Kodo.

The Echo Chamber is 3 hours of the best in dub, reggae, downbeat club, and percussion heavy world music. Hosted by Dr. StrangeDub & DJ Baby Swiss. Find all the Echo Chamber playlists at: http://www.kfai.org/node/68. And check the MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/doctorstrangedub

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‘Creating Art for Community’s Sake’

21 February 2006 at 9:00 am (Press, Radio, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , )

Creating Art for Community’s Sake:
e.g. bailey & Sha Cage create art for community’s sake
by Chelsea Ross (for the Madison Observer)

Sha Cage and e.g. bailey, the multi-disciplinary duo from the Twin Cities are bringing together all the elements – not just in terms of hip hop, but the elements of community building and social change – for a new Madison radio show that showcases underground, conscious hip hop and spoken word.

The Cipher Zone, which debuted on WORT 89.9 fm last Saturday, is what bailey calls the “changing station” on the “underground railroad:” a Midwest coalition of artists, organizers, activists and educators coming together over the airwaves to enrich and build community with positive words and hot beats.

bailey says Madison is the hub of the network because of its convenient geography just a few hours from the Twin Cities, Chicago, and Ann Arbor, and even closer to Milwaukee, but also because of the common vision shared among bailey, Cage and Youth Speaks Wisconsin Director Willie Ney, who is also the executive director of Cipher Zone.

“Part of our vision is connecting with common people doing common things around the country and building communities, that’s how movements are formed,” says bailey.

The Cipher Zone already has a large collective behind it in Madison that includes a number of “homegrown” (as bailey puts it) hip hop and spoken word artists as well as Elements of Change, the local organization that educates youth through a hip hop-based curriculum.

Cage (a spoken word artist, playwright, dancer, filmmaker, actor, painter, and teacher) and bailey (a spoken word artist, playwright, actor, film, music, and video producer, photographer, and teacher) know the value of collaboration in a community context: they have individually and together established multiple art collectives, written, produced and directed plays and movies, and pioneered two radio shows in the Twin Cities that also focus on the positive underground scene.

“We don’t work alone, there is always a lot of collaboration; we have a large community network, which helps move things along faster and more efficiently,” says Cage when asked how she and e.g. are able to accomplish so much. “It starts by dreaming big and following your passions. We both come from rich backgrounds of community, which help set the foundation. Also, we look at all good ideas as possible projects. We don’t turn something down because we think we don’t have time.”

Cage, who is originally from Mississippi, and e.g., who moved to the U.S. from Liberia when he was 10, find Midwest cities to be ideal for their work because they are big enough for artistic growth and freedom, but small enough to feel intimate and forge close relationships and partnerships.

“As a multi-disciplinary artist, it is important to live in a community where you are not forced to be in a box,” says Cage. “It is about being able to spread your wings versus fitting neatly in a box and labeled ‘actor’ or ‘dancer’ or ‘poet.’ It is possible to be all of those.”

Cage and bailey apply their cross-disciplined energy to their radio shows by combining spoken word with old, new, underground, and even mainstream hip hop (“every artist has at least one conscious track,” says e.g.), along with in-house djs and interviews with homegrown, nationally and internationally recognized artists.

They also see radio as a means to make connections across the world. “We live in a global community,” says bailey. “Instead of reaching 10 people or 100 people with a [live performance], you can reach 30,000 people in one night. It’s about having the most impact without wearing yourself out.”

bailey says seeing the young performers at the national Youth Speaks competition last year was one clear sign that they are having an impact. “Seeing 300 youth writing incredible poetry and performing so powerfully with such a clear message tells me that something is real, something is powerful, something is connecting,” says bailey.

“In Minnesota, there were tons of people that didn’t have any idea that there is a side to hip hop that’s not gangsta rap,” says bailey.

He believes just putting that positive message out there is a way to change peoples’ consciousness and possibly even their actions. “If what you listen to everyday is gangsta rap with violence and aggression, it becomes a part of who you are, and when someone steps to you, that’s how you are going to react. But if you’re infused with positive energies and positive messages, maybe you’ll think twice [before becoming violent].”

Cage and bailey say they do not know where their underground railroad will take them, but they know the potential it has to change the way the Madison community perceives hip hop.

But Cipher Zone and the hip hop community as a whole has some work to do. With community members calling for the removal of Club Majestic’s liquor license, the police cracking down on graffiti artists and night clubs banning hip hop-associated apparel, many Madisonians have a long way to go before they shed their stereotypes of hip hop.

Even so, bailey and Cage will have the help of the socially conscious hip hop community that is already thriving in Madison. bailey, at least, remains optimistic at the show’s ability to help change Madison’s perceptions of hip hop.

The other night a 38 year-old white man called in and said he had never heard anything like he heard on Cipher Zone. “He said it was amazing and thanked us,” said bailey. “Just a little spark can ignite big change.”

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