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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without punctuation

30 May 2008 at 2:33 am (Poems, Recordings, Spoken Word, Writings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

without-punctuation-poem-page-1one of my Spoken Word pieces by way of an introduction. it’s one of my favorite pieces and one of the first that started to capture the essence of what i define as spoken word. the definition of spoken word i developed from studying the art form over the years is this:

“Spoken Word is an art form which accentuates the rhythmic elements inherent in a poem––thereby expanding the texture, the context, and possibly the meaning of the work. You can accentuate these rhythms either through your verbal delivery or you can add music, or both. The work can be created by the individual poet or with a group of poets, and musicians, either improvisationally or through conscious arrangement.”

that’s the longer definition. the shorter one is basically,

“Spoken Word is accentuating the rhythmic elements inherent within a poem, whether through instrumentation or your own vocal delivery.”

the piece is a tribute to Black Arts Movement writers and their freedom from syntax and standard rules of poetry, fused with the history of Africans in America. the freedom they exhibited on the page, i wanted to figure out how to express that in the oralization, the performance, of the piece.

but at the time i didn’t know that what i was doing was called spoken word. i considered it jazz poetry. this is why on page it’s structured like a jazz poem, which i had been writing for a couple years. but in performance, it’s developed into a spoken word piece, and my development of it paralleled and guided my development as a spoken word artist. once i completed this piece, which i edited over the course of a couple years, i felt like i understood the essence of spoken word and what it aims for. it went on to win the Hughes Diop Poetry Award at the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers Conference, along with another poem, ‘letter to lisa’.

Note: Below is a live performance of ‘without punctuation’. It is fused with another piece, ‘diaspora’, and is now called, ‘Blues People’, in reference to the classic book on African American music by Amiri Baraka.


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Begin the Begin

15 March 2008 at 4:45 am (Writings) ()

What will this be? An archive perhaps. Or a repository of dreams and visions. An oral history. Maybe a mythology. A sketch. A monologue. Or a segue. A road map. Instant replays. A never ending term paper. A disheveled briefcase. Rough draft of a pending lecture. Memorabilia. Explanations. Discoveries. Work notes. Home movies. A postmodern documentary. Rants and raves. Freedom papers. Or simply the blues. Whatever it is or becomes, I hope you find it worth your while. And take something with you. Peace.

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