Palestinian hip-hop trio DAM, above, wield the power of hip-hop as a force against the Israeli occupation of their homeland—the world’s longest—and their minds as well.
Formed in 1998 by brothers Suhell and Tamer Nafar, center and right (friend Mahmoud Jreri, left, was added later), they initially sought to make party records that would earn them cool points with peers and the ladies. Then it was still “just for fun,” says Tamer. They completed a six-track EP titled Stop Selling Drugs, the first time any Palestinian had ever recorded rap music.
As yours truly gestures, above left, event organizer Kembrew McLeod, Keith Shocklee, Hank Shocklee, and Chuck D eye a monitor from the table. It displays that black & white, composite photo, by me, of momentary levity from our WBAU days in the early ’80s. In that image are, l-to-r, Chuck, Keith, radio show host Bill Stephney, Andre “Dr. Dré” Brown, Flavor Flav, Tyrone “T-Money” Kelsie, and his unidentified friend. Good times, friends, front and back.
That’s the title of a presentation I’ve been giving at schools around the country. In it, I show some of the photographs I made in the early 1980s, before I started writing. These images—of Chuck D, Flavor-Flav, Bomb Squad leader Hank, above, and Keith Shocklee, as well as others—were created several years before Public Enemy existed, and long before their place in music history was assured. So, they’re a real insight into an important part of music history in its raw, unformed state.
(In the image, above, Shocklee briefly looks up from twiddling knobs at a fraternity party at Hofstra U. in Long Island. It was the kind of event Spectrum City mobile d.j.s, Hank & Chuck’s crew, hosted fairly often during their so-called “salad days.”)
When giving the talk, I speak about getting involved in photography; meeting Chuck D and the rest at Adelphi U.; and growing in hip-hop with them—my education at the feet of, arguably, some of the culture’s most potent masters.
Audiences who’ve seen the images—whether at my original Eyejammie Fine Arts exhibition in 2007, or at these lecture events—recount the innocence and freshness of the images, their humor, and how black & white pictures, which we see less and less these days, project a sharp, visceral quality.
I’ll be speaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tomorrow, March 23rd, as a guest of the Department of Afro-American Studies, led by chair Dr. Craig Werner (Higher Ground;A Change Is Gonna Come).
Then, next week, I’ll be returning to the University of Iowa for the knockout: A museum show featuring twenty-six of my photographic prints, then Shooting the Enemy with Chuck, Hank, and Keith, directly followed by a panel with them on the making of P.E.’s Fear of a Black Planet, celebrating its 20th anniversary April 10th. (More on this in a week!)
If you go to, or are associated with, a university that would welcome this cultural-history-discussion-with-pictures, please get at me. Or, if you’re a scholar or programmer who values primary voices, and would like to have me present at your school or in concert with your department, this year or next year, please let me know: Drop me a note at HAllen@HarryAllen.info, or tweet me @HarryAllen, and, as Chuck D says, let’s get it on.
instructor Tom McFadden has created a series of rap videos to explain concepts such as gene regulation and evolution. His latest video, entitled “Oxidate It Or Love It” explains how metabolism works while paying homage to “Hate It Or Love It” by 50 Cent/The Game and “On To The Next One” by Jay-Z.
Though I’ve never ridden the London Tube, I ride the New York City subway system all the time. So, this graphic by Samuel Arbesman, postdoctoral fellow at Harvard studying computational sociology, hit me like a little blitz of genius.
an attempt to approach our galaxy with a bit more familiarity than usual and get people thinking about long-term possibilities in outer space. Hopefully it can provide as a useful shorthand for our place in the Milky Way, the ‘important’ sights, and make inconceivable distances a bit less daunting. And while convenient interstellar travel is nothing more than a murky dream, and might always be that way, there is power in creating tools for beginning to wrap our minds around the interconnections of our galactic neighborhood.
Since you’re looking, the red arm, in the Orion belt, pictures Sol, the scientific name of our own star, the Sun. Heading left, the Orion Nebula is the next stop, 1,344 light years away. In other words, traveling 186,282 miles a second, it would take you over 1300 years to get there. Better pack a lunch.
“A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life.”
Giddings and I resume our conversation, speaking on, among other subjects, Wells-Barnett’s success in politically organizing Chicago; an effort, the author holds, whose branches, leaves, and fruit reach to the White House today.
Then, our conversation took a turn, and during the second part of today’s broadcast—the last 20 minutes—we spoke about the life of the Black scholar, especially the female Black scholar.
It was frank and insightful, and it naturally rose out of the issues we were addressing the moment before. So, it was the best kind of digression one can have with a guest.
You’ll hear it by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.
Most are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. image, above, his sonorous voice, and with many of his speeches.
Bu few, perhaps, know that King was a published author who wrote six books during his lifetime: Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958), The Measure of a Man (1959), Strength to Love (1963), Why We Can’t Wait (1964), Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), and The Trumpet of Conscience, published in 1968, the year he was assassinated.
In this recent clip, above, Gabriel “Asheru” Benn, D.C.-based educator and founder of Educational Lyrics, talks about H.E.L.P.—Hip-Hop Educational Literacy Program. H.E.L.P. uses music to teach reading to schoolchildren, utilizing hip-hop’s currency to make ideas stick.
That’s an area in which Mr. Benn has some authority, by the way, as his mind-spinning flow on the theme from The Boondocks proves with each episode, below. Study hard, kids.
Almost exactly four months later, on May 26, Takaki, 70, ended his own life. He was, as his son said, above, seeking a way out of the pain and debilitation of multiple sclerosis., having suffered with the degenerative neurological condition for 20 years..
Had I known that I would never talk to Ron Takaki again, would I have spoken to him longer, more penetratingly, or differently, in some other way? Certainly. But, more, I’m honored that I had the chance to speak with him.
I’d heard him talk in-person once before, at an otherwise middling race conference hosted by Michigan State University, about a dozen years earlier. He gave an explanation of the term “master narrative”—the history of the U.S. popularly held to be true by most people, and that our powerful institutions overwhelmingly support and reinforce.
For the most part, the master narrative is the story of white people, their victories, conquests, and supposed brilliance. Other people are attached to that tale, from time to time, like appliqués to a jacket. But the amazing race dominates the conversation.
Then, after explaining this concept, Takaki told his own version of the nation’s history. What I remember most is how, as he traveled through time in his story, different groups would appear, act, diminish, then reappear and repeat, over and over. It was almost like watching a master weaver, but one whose fabric was temporal and societal, not material.
With his sad and unfortunate death, our nation lost an irreplaceable educator and innovator. (Deeper, still, was his family’s loss of a husband, father, and grandfather.)
Thankfully, still, we have his ideas, in the form of his many books, and we also have his voice: Ronald Takaki is a guest today, on this encore presentation of my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, November 27, at 2 pm ET.
He’s preceded by blues vocalist Shemekia Copeland, right, and director Joe Stevens, co-creator of the 2008, sound-systems-on-BMX-bikes short, Made in Queens.
You can hear their ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.