I know (and appreciate the humor of!) Thomas Fucaloro from the slam poetry scene in the U.S. When I found out he was releasing a collaborative chapbook of poetry and art, I was very excited to snag a copy! The design and illustrations in this lil book are so well done. I particularly love the Ralph Steadman-esque illustration accompanying the fourth poem (right).
My favorite poem is the profound, personal “List of Secrets I Keep From Myself”, which reminds readers of the importance of healthy self-esteem and confidence.
This chapbook seems particularly well-suited for art book collectors or quirky people. I plan to use two or three of the collaborations in my poetry workshops for middle and high school students, as the content, formatting, and “doodle” vibes are approachable and fresh. I would love to see more illustrated poetry collections like this one!
Gambino’s new video “This is America” is a thoughtfully choreographed masterpiece, evocative, timely, crucial. I was reminded of others’ work, Danez Smith, Claudia Rankine, Michelle Alexander, Jess X Snow, Myles Golden, George Abraham, Toni Morrison, Khalid Abudawas, and I felt that this video is poetry, that it takes audiences on such a stark, emotional journey, and it does so well. This project uses every imaginable aspect to convey violence, corruption, and terror. Each swell, musical style, and rhythm is meant to bolster the content of the lyrics and visuals.
The very first glimpse we have of Gambino is when he comes into view from behind a beam: taking us by surprise. Before the first sound loop changes into the next section of the song, we see him pull a gun out and execute the guitarist, terrorist / POW-style right after grooving to the intro, aka in the middle of ordinary activities.
After the commentary indicative of a Black Lives Matter / cultural truth “we just wanna party”, the chorus dives into critiques of guns, police, and the divide between people of color (particularly dark-skinned Americans) and inner city police forces (“Don’t catch you slipping up” and “guerilla”).
His main entourage or co-stars in the video are young; including young dancers is a beautiful statement and nod to those learning and dancing young, particularly to those youth of color in inner cities (the school uniform aesthetic) who dance for fun; it also serves, as culture and roots remind us, as an homage to inner city youth of days past.
Obviously one of the most fucked up and therefore powerful images in the video is when he slays the church choir. But the very way the scene is set up is also a powerful statement; Gambino slips in a side door unnoticed, meaning we as the audience probably didn’t even notice the door until he came in, since we were so focused on watching the choir perform. He acts at home, dances, smiles, laughs, freezes, turns, catches an assault rifle, and guns down the choir. During my first time watching the video, I said to my husband, “I almost had to expect that after the first guy he killed.” That in itself is part of the statement. How often do we just feel numb to the news of another mass shooting, another school shooting, another person with access to a gun who had never passed a background check, another bucket in the ocean of reasons assault rifles should not be manufactured for civilian sale. Another instance of Conservative gunowners possessing more rights than victims of gun violence.
The next scene depicts police and violence against individuals dressed in street clothes, hoodies, loose pants, etc. During the middle of this scene, Gambino jumps on beat and makes eye contact with the camera while singing, “Whoo, whoo!” He jumps playfully, sings goodnaturedly, as though the officers are a joke. As though the scene is a joke. Because how Black men are treated in this country by the police SHOULD BE A JOKE. But it isn’t. This irony packs a punch.
He dances again with the group of young people. He plays it off. It’s not ‘serious’; it’s normal for these kids to be dancing in the middle of chaos with the police; their neighborhoods are overpoliced and underserved. This generation is growing up when Black Lives Matter and social media and everyday life in their communities teaches them that this combative existence against the police is normal.
The lyrics during this section focus on a materialistic critique, a critique about caring about superficial things (“geekin out”; “fitted”; “Gucci”; “so pretty”). Then, the content moves in on a critique of guns and international weapons trafficking (“contraband”; “the plug in Oaxaca” (a city in Mexico); “blocka”). You’ll notice also that as the camera pans over some kids sitting on a balcony / second floor of the building, one kid is recording everything on a phone; this serves to critique the normalization of recording violence. I’m sure others who teach or are around teens can attest to this prominent habit of theirs today. When I was in high school six years ago, only a few (and I’ll be rude and call them shitty) of my peers recorded fights instead of getting help or trying to intervene. Now, I see my teen students pull up videos of fights or show off footage they recorded almost daily. They don’t seem to mind the wrongness of laughing at and celebrating violence; they’ve been desensitized. Inner city violence is multi-faceted and has a long history that can be traced directly to racism, segregation, poverty, systemic discrimination, intentional drug ferrying, redlining, gentrification, and on and on. But none of this okays the celebration of violence.
Gambino pauses in the next moments, and the music stops. He lights a joint. Casually. Pointedly. Again, a critique. Others of us light up to escape, to ignore, to waste time and not improve the problems laid out in the video.
I know there are so many things that have escaped my notice or that I can’t catch as references or significant because I lack the knowledge. One of these is the significance of all the parked, abandoned, hazards-flashing cars. I notice a young woman perched on one car’s bumper who seems to blow a kiss as the camera pans out.
The song shifts again, a second moment where we expected the song to be over, yet it continued. Point being, yes, these problems, that’s just it, they keep going. There are that many of them. They remain unsolved, placed on America’s back burner.
The final section of the song sounds like an outro or like background music in a slow-mo or timelapse portion of a movie. The part of the movie that isn’t content persay but filler. The scenes that help you understand the transition or the passing of time. The story being depicted here is Gambino running, terrified, from the police. But this is just something that happens. It’s just filler, just time passing. Right?
The conversation continues in the words of many other, wiser writers and people. Individuals on my Facebook timeline have pointed out references to Fela Kuti and New Jack City. I’m not pretending to be an expert by any means, but I’ve been a fan of Gambino’s for years, and this new video is fucking powerful. Thanks for reading. What do you think of what I unraveled? What did I misinterpret or miss altogether?
And may the universe bless Donald Glover.
Featured image credit: Highsnobiety & Donald Glover
Also, all art pieces that are hanging up for sale are [from] local [artists]. A lot of people don’t buy art. [They] usually don’t give a shit about art, but then they like what we have [here] and start hanging it in their offices.
Tell me about your own art career.
I paint and draw on wood. Instead of doing actual woodcutting, I’ve been doing jigsaw cutting. With my daughter, Haidyn, I do a lot of collaborative painting. [She’s] almost six.
[My dream is] I want to do murals. I want to travel and do murals. Real goals are to make the roof a botanical garden for weddings and events. I also curate other venues.
Fun fact: Hannah started hiding a stick figure in all of her art pieces. Is your family supportive?
My husband, Chris, is obviously. My dad’s a small business owner and my mom just graduated from business school. I’ve always known that art’s my jam, and they’ve always been supportive of everything I’ve done.
Keep up-to-date with all things Lions & Rabbits by liking their Facebook page and stopping in to see for yourself what’s happening in Creston. Located at 1264 Plainfield Ave., Grand Rapids, MI.
Dominique Christina: poet, champion of slams, acclaimed performer, author of two books (including the first and so far only poetry collection my husband has read in its entirety – high praise indeed). I first saw Dominique perform at the Split This Rock poetry conference in 2016. During her performance, I became convinced that the best spoken word poetry is page poetry, literary poetry. Dominique blended words, alliterations, alchemed magic on the stage, and the audience was enraptured; I know I wasn’t the only person with tears streaming down their face while listening to Dominique detail the terrified escape of a slave across the historic Mason-Dixie line.
Thank you, Dominique, for doing this interview with me! How long have you been writing?
I started writing poetry when I was 22 and in a Creative Writing class in undergrad. That course changed the trajectory of my life. I was forced into a kind of honesty that I didn’t think was available to me. But it was, and once I engaged it, I never looked back. It still took me more than ten years after that to read anything out loud, but it was miraculous for me.
[Since then], I have tried to be a more deliberate writer. I am an accidental poet but not an unintentional one. I am an elegiac poet. I write about those who have died. I feel a responsibility to them… to a great many people. When I first started writing, it was largely autobiographical. And it still is, but there has been a shift in consciousness for me. I am interested [now] in re-fleshing the bones of others.
How do you blend performance poetry and page poetry?
Whatever is excavated from me is excavated, and I make a spur of the moment decision about what I share out loud and what I do not. But I recognize that language is urgent, and it deserves an appropriate reckoning. [I give it] the weight it deserves.
Poems like “I tell her about Jasper Texas” are difficult to read, painful to digest. They’re well-written and convincing enough that I find myself picturing a scene I don’t want to picture. Could you comment on the process of writing this piece and others like it?
There is a nagging in my spirit, in terms of these elegiac poems specifically, but also poems that are largely social commentary; there is a nagging in my spirit that I can’t quiet down. So I wait. I wait on the words to come, and they always do. It feels ancestral. I believe it is ancestral. It’s like falling into the deep. I don’t know if I will hit the bottom. I don’t know if there will be arms to catch me. I don’t know the destination. I just know something in my consciousness needs room to move, so I give it room.
One of my favorite lines from your debut collection, The Bones, The Breaking, The Balm, is “make me wanna curse my own sugar” from “The Shug Avery Mimicry”. How have you dealt with people who don’t support you?
I don’t pay attention to detractors too much. I don’t hold court with them, and I don’t give them relevance. I really mean that – so much so that it is literally erased from my consciousness. I have had to fight to name myself, and I have had to mean my life all my life so I am predisposed to self-resilience. It’s second nature. I don’t expect things to be easy, but I do expect to be victorious. I refuse to hate any part of myself. I refuse to be a victim. I refuse to be silent, and I will never apologize for any of it.
One area we document and celebrate at Hyype is natural beauty, self-esteem, and confidence. We LOVE your naturally beautiful self, especially your hair and fashion.
I wear my hair the way it comes out of my head. I love my hair. I don’t need coaching around that, but I recognize that many of us do need it, and I know why that need exists. I think the natural hair movement is as much about challenging standards of beauty as it is about deep affirmation that we are enough and have always been enough.
Hell yeah. Thank you for the many ways you empower others. What do you consider a highlight from audience and reader reaction to your work?
I am always deeply grateful for the opportunity to hear how the work resonates with others. I am doubled over in gratitude for those who have told me that my work permissioned them to heal. That’s a hallelujah every time.
What are you working on now?
All the things. Branding for Under Armour. Writing for HBO. Traveling. Touring with my sister Rachel McKibbens as Mother Tongue Poetry. Finishing volumes of poetry. Working on an a mixed media art exhibit called The Ruined Woman. All the things.
Mixed media? That sounds promising. I look forward to seeing what you create! What else is important in your life? I believe you’re a mother. How do you balance your writing career with other aspects of life?
I don’t know how I do it. It’s a magic act. But I have a very supportive family. They want me to be in the service of my gifts. I am met with no resistance on that front. Everybody stands back to let me get my crazy done. I’m lucky.
Interview edited for grammar and clarity. Photo credit: DominiqueChristina.com.
My hair was over a foot long. So for my birthday, on July 13, I decided to have it cut.
All together, they cut off about four feet of hair which I plan on donating to a program called Wigs For Kids (linked below.) I’ve donated my hair three times now and will continue to do so as long as my hair grows.
My hair now hangs a little longer than chin-length and I’ve never felt so confident and empowered from a haircut. Maybe it’s the wave in it. Maybe the length. Maybe because it makes me look a little older. But I feel ready to take on the world.
I also like feeling a little rebellious. My hair is short and dyed a blue-green color, which is not very “feminine.” Girls are supposed to have long, natural hair, right? Nowadays, it has become more normal for people to have different haircuts. Pixie cuts, shaved heads, long hair and everything in between. But still, it’s fun to be a little rebellious now and then.
And then I dyed it blue with real hair dye. Not Kool-Aid, which I have also done. I love it so much. Not just because it looks cool or because it’s fun, but because it’s self-expression. Everything you do is an art form, it’s self-expression. Have fun with it!
Speaking of self-expression, I really do think it’s an art form. How you dress, how you do your makeup or if you choose not to. How you act. The things you love. The way your hair is styled. It’s art 1. I think it’s so beautiful that people like to present themselves in different ways that they think is beautiful to them.
If you are looking for some sort of change, get a fun haircut. It’s empowering and fun. It makes you feel good.
Do you have a lot of hair? You should try donating. Wigs For Kids is linked here.
Is your hair dyed? Do you have a cool haircut or just got one? Let us know in the comments!!!
the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
While talking to a few of my friends one night, an interesting topic came up. Happiness. My friend said he was going to be a lawyer and I asked him if he wanted to be a lawyer. He said, “It isn’t about want.”
After a little bit more talking, he explained that he could be rich and retire early, give his kids an easy life. He said he didn’t have a problem with it, he didn’t see a problem. He also didn’t see how happiness and enjoyment came into the equation.
So I started to think about how so many people choose to do something for money. And yes, having money is helpful. Especially in this new up and coming world, where everything cost ten-times-more.
But whatever happened to happiness?
Nowadays, everything is all about working, being “successful” and following the crowd. But that isn’t happiness. So what do you think?
Happiness or success?
Why not both? Find something you love and turn it into a career. Do what you love because one day, you might regret only working for money while not being happy.
All who attended the first U.S. Gorillaz concert (2017) at Huntington Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois were blessed to experience such profoundly moving, inspiring, and genuine art. Gorillaz (aka Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett plus their brilliant cohort of collaborators) is one of the best examples of activism done well. While the crowd was diverse in taste, personality, life experiences, age, and appearance, we shared a love for good music and – hopefully – a commitment to “be loving each other no matter what happens.”
Setlist (with commentary and highlights)
The stage design featured a large LED-lit circle, which displayed various video clips and images throughout the show, and a video screen backdrop, typical of many Gorillaz performances. The circular screen briefly displayed an Illuminati-reminiscent eye, and when the screen moved to hover over the performers, it seemed to symbolize the reminder that this night – as with every day activists are alive and upsetting the status quo – was under watch by the powers that be.
one) Gorillaz opened with “Ascension,” to the delight of many.
two) “Last Living Souls,” a song I understand as commentary on the deadened nature of those who limit their perception by refusing to use psychedelic drugs, as well as those who don’t care about others (the two characteristics, funnily enough, are often found in the same people).
three) “Saturnz Barz”, during which Albarn played the melodica.
four) “Charger”: The video backdrop featured electricity bolts and created a beautifully intense mood for the live performance. XXXX made me (and others, I assure you) swoon.
five) “Rhinestone Eyes,” which is one of my all-time favorite tracks, particularly because of its important subject matter and commentary on climate change and consumerism.
six) “Sex Murder Party,” the ironic murder ballad that – sadly – was especially relevant to the city of Chicago, both past and present. Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz were both present to lend their talents. Following the song, Katz encouraged us to “start a revolution… of love.” Now to follow through…
seven) “She’s My Collar,” which had one of the most creative (and damn good) video accompaniments: a pelican (with toucan or eagle coloring) flying over a photo collage of women’s bodies. Fine art. I was disappointed that Kali Uchis was not on the performer docket, as this is one of my favorite tracks from Humanz.
eight) “Busted and Blue,” which was dedicated “to all those in the grandstand… [and] all those in VIP”. The video accompaniment for this song was also fine art; it featured the Humanz album artwork of Noodle. Images of Noodle’s past phases bloomed in each lens of her glasses, spilling the ink of her history across the stage and our hearts. Its shifts in lighting supported each crescendo in the song perfectly.
nine) “El Mañana,” during which the circular screen above the stage featured additional imagery of clouds and a helicopter, thus expanding the ambience of the traditional music video.
ten) “Carnival,” featuring Anthony Hamilton, whose vocals were confident and somehow even better live than on the album.
eleven) An extended version of “Broken”
twelve) “Interlude: Elevator Going Up”
thirteen) “Andromeda,” with a stunning video accompaniment displaying a green-toned star-strewn sky in motion. Also, Albarn’s falsetto was on point during this performance. I particularly loved that Albarn paused the show to re-perform the song’s ending, insisting that it be performed right.
fourteen) “Strobelite” with Albarn on keytar and beautiful stage lighting.
fifteen) An altered version of “Out Of Body” with outstanding guest performances by Little Simz and Zebra Katz. “All that’s left for us to do is move,” Simz instructed, and the trippy video accompaniment winked with the details.
sixteen) New track “Garage Palace,” an anthem featuring Little Simz. It assured listeners, “This is our time.” The video accompaniment was a compilation of neon sign art overlapped and arranged in alternating patterns, one of my favorite aesthetics of the evening.
seventeen) “We Got the Power” was the final song for the initial setlist, and Albarn ensured that the audience understood why we ought to be there: to remember our “heart[s] full of hope” and that our love is “indestructible even when we’re tired.” (And fuck, this fight for justice, this march for peace, this country, these people, we’re tired.) This song was the epitome of beauty, featuring Noodle’s album art again but with rose-colored glasses, a direct statement on how we need to continue seeing and hoping for the world.
which happened after a record short interlude, perhaps one and a half minutes, just enough time for the band to walk backstage and guzzle some water.
eighteen) The classic hit “Stylo”
nineteen) An all-out performance of “Kids With Guns,” another satirical piece that splays out social problems and forces you to imagine solutions. (Because how can our kids have guns?)
twenty) “Clint Eastwood,” which was, as Albarn put it, an enormously special treat. Del the Funky Homosapien grinned his way onto stage, and we sang our guts out together. “I’m useless, but not for long,” Albarn admitted, by which I mean he assured us that ethical perception-expanding is how you become useful.
twenty-one & twenty-two) The evening’s final songs (and, in my tear ducts’ opinion, finest moments) were “Don’t Get Lost in Heaven” and “Demon Days.” Simply speaking, this performance was a spiritual experience. “Don’t Get Lost in Heaven” is a song which begs listeners to shrug off the temptations to abuse opioids and other life-destroying addictions: “Don’t get lost in heaven / They got locks on the gate / Don’t go over the edge / You’ll make a big mistake.” The choice to play this song at the evening’s close highlighted the importance of the city’s own struggle with hard drugs: in 2015 alone, 32,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. In the past two months, dozens of Chicago residents have died from a new addictive prescription drug that is marketed as safe.
“Tomorrow is a brand new day,” the gospel choir sang, looping “Demon Days” over and over while behind them, an image of stained glass rose onto the video screen. “So turn yourself around, turn yourself, turn yourself around.” Their voices reverberated around the pavilion, and I shut my eyes, lifted my face, and wept.
What do you want to change about your life? Albarn wants us to reconsider who we are and what we live for. What can you commit to doing this next week? I asked several people post-show.
Vincent Perez said, “I left hoping that the feeling wouldn’t fade. The only change I would make would be to have a positive attitude towards my week.”
Robert Fraser said, “The same things I always want to change about myself. I want to be more disciplined and productive with my time. I want to give myself reasons to make art beyond aesthetic.”
As for me, I’m continuing to advocate for self-reflection, mental wellness, spiritual health, peace, justice, and socialism. I’m writing poetry, curating this blog, and learning music. I certainly need to pick up the pace on my projects and use my time intentionally. I also need to give myself space to breathe, and I need to take pride in all I’ve accomplished and all those I’ve touched thus far. And I want to find:
“Some kind of nature
Some kind of soul
Some kind of mixture
Some kind of goal
Some kind of majesty
Some chemical load…
Some kind of gold”