Thoughts on a new moon evening


Ritualistic evenings spent alone

reflecting

The band War fills the the background space,

Let nobody get you downnnnn 

lyrics that inform my mental landscape

its a new moon tonight     new beginnings   anxiousness   anticipation.

Ive been feeling more grounded in Oakland

at home

San Francisco was too cold    not right for me

No real way to overcome the alienation I have felt since I was young

when my fresh mind was cluttered with worry and fear

fear that my father would kill my mother

fear that we would lose our house

fear that my peers would know how dysfunctional my home was.

No support or community just shame.

We are forced to carry the violence of a system all on our own

polluting our spirit till we release ourselves to it.

Smoke herb to get through the days and pain of just living.

The alienation takes over here       we are alone.

Then again we are not alone   We all silently share this reality

destruction hunger violence

at the hands of a Patriarchal State

that hides the truth and pits us against each other

That cancerous competition

so characteristic of the engines of Capital that take and take and take

monsters trying to outdo each other

who can conquer the earth

so characteristic of the Patriarchal civilizations that have existed

since time became a tool used by man

later to become super exploited by the chains of Capital

Time a logical extension of this machine intruding upon our life and pysche

Patriarchy and Capitalism      A blissful marriage

sustained for centuries by the supposed ‘brilliance’  of our oppressors

that we are forced to worship in their schools.

We try to get through our days          scrambling to stay positive

struggling with the itch inside that maybe things don’t have to be this way

not knowing that other women men children

are kept up late at night with similar thoughts

frustrations that can practically translate into revolutions

if we stay alert     paying attention to the cracks that erupt across time

joyful openings of history unfolding upon itself

and I watch      feeling the poisonous weight shed from my body

pupils gleaming in the beauty of the new moon light.

 


I’m the One that’s gonna have to die when its time for me to die / So let me live my life the way I want to



I fell in love with Jimi Hendrix when I was 15. Besides being one of the most innovative musicians of all time, the content of his music had these dreamer qualities that really touched my soul. At the time, I was going through my first serious transitions; shaping myself into a true person; feeling emotions differently, and making decisions for myself. Of course, I’ve only really begun to make progress with those grounding transformations, but I think the process started back then in a more primitive angsty form.  He was a dreamer and so was I. He spoke of the moon, castles made of sand, love-filled seas, and magic carpet rides. It all felt very free and powerful. By the age of 15 I had already grown up quite a bit. I wrote and daydreamed to hold on to my own truth and reality to survive the pains of the realities existing around me. Jimi’s music was an escape into a different reality that was so beautiful. It really appealed to me.  It still appeals to me. More recently, I have begun to explore the supernatural aspects of African and Black spirituality; trying to understand a deeper aspect of my people’s culture that hasn’t completely been destroyed in the violence and exploitation of colonization. Jimi’s music references voodoo and some of these traditional African healing and harming practices. This makes sense because his music was deeply influenced by the blues, whose roots lie in the south and in African American communities that have been able to preserve some traditions. The blues has always had a spiritual aspect to it, and so does Jimi’s bluesy, melodic, rock n roll.

I often wondered if he felt alienated in the white dominated/Eurocentric music world. Black artist have always been subjected to stereotypes and marginalization in the fine arts, which is controlled and owned by rich white people. They love to appropriate ‘blackness’ by othering us. When you are a talented Black artist, who makes it in the mainstream, this othering is very alienating and bad for the spirit. I wonder if Jimi felt misunderstood in the music scenes in the US and the UK. He was such a beautiful, striking presence. Did people use him for it? Did these things lead to his tragic early death? I have felt alienated as a half-Black woman in rock n roll spaces, where there are rarely Black folks. We can get down. We know rock n roll. It came from the blues, a uniquely Black American music genre. These early blues artists and rock n roll musicians gave rock its soul; its swag. Just look at Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jimi, and their styles. There are feelings of discomfort and alienation, when you are the only person of color in a room full of white people. As a young person and lover of all music, I was trying to understand how rock fit into my identity as a Black person. Jimi was exactly what I needed.

Jimi, like no one else, shows the origins of the blues within rock n roll. His music is the psychedelic relationship of hard rock and blues, and it is so magical it overwhelms my heart at times. My long time favorite album is Axis: Bold as Love, for its softness and emotion. I have chosen the song If  6 was 9, because it represents the spookiness of the blues and rock in his music. I have recently fallen back in love with his last album, Electric Ladyland. This album demonstrated Hendrix’s talents as a producer with his use of innovative recording techniques to create new sounds. He was so scientific, constantly experimenting and re-mastering his guitar to take music to new levels. He turned the studio into an instrument; a mechanism he could study and manipulate for desired effects. The album is so dynamic with sounds that range from jazz, the blues, r&b, Brit pop, and psychedelic rock. My current favorite song at the moment is ‘Have you ever been (to Electric ladyland)’, because it really brings out the soulful qualities of his voice. I love the way he harmonizes with himself. I love the positive emphasis on love throughout the song. And for the sake of having a song from each album I also feature ‘Third Stone from the sun’ off of his first album Are You Experienced. Jimi will always be an important part of my soul, and for the thousands of other souls, who were nurtured off of his music. Enjoy.


Pieces of Family

 

My grandmother Marva is on the left, my great grandmother 'mother dear' is in the middle, and my great aunt Marion is on the right. They are celebrating new years in Marva's nightclub in Kansas City


Hello fly people out there who take time to read my blog! I am sorry that the posts have been somewhat sporadic this summer. There have been a lot of transitions that have been challenging at times, but also magical and ultimately beautiful and grounding. However, this path of self-discovery has lead me away from the world of the internet, but as things have started to settle down expect more revolutionary theory/analysis, cultural tidbits, poetry, and funkiness to be coming your way. Going along with this theme of  self/truth, I wanted to share a recent conversation I had with my grandmother, as well as some photographs of my family that  I recently received from my uncle. This summer has been met with a lot of reconnecting with family and myself.  Something that I think a lot of folks living in this oppressive world can relate to. Capitalism and colonialism destroys human beings organic connection to themselves and their communities. We are forced to work for the rich in order to pay them for our shelter, food, clothing and other means of survival. We are not working for the survival and reproduction of our community, which would facilitate an organic connection to each other; we are working for the reproduction of capital and profit. On top of that the conditions keep us down, pitted against each other, and tired from work. We are not taught how to have healthy, loving fulfilling relationships with each other, because that doesn’t matter to the rich ruling class, who run society in their own interests. They actually would rather have us oppressing and fighting each other, because that makes revolution harder. If we are to rebuild our communities and relationships within these conditions it takes real intentional work that isn’t easy, but very necessary. I am trying to rebuild with my family and here is a glimpse into some of that work.

———————————————————————————————————————————

My grandmother called me today from Kansas. It was the first time I felt present all day. She said,

‘baby you wanna hear your grandfathers solo? Im listening to his music.”

I laughed. ‘yes I would love to’.

She pauses to go put the record back in the right spot. She puts the phone next to it and I begin to hear the music. The connection isn’t the cleanest, but suddenly I hear the blare of my great grandfathers alto saxophone. He had this aggressive style that was very reflective of the Kansas city Bop jazz genre. After a few minutes she gets back on the phone.

‘Daddy sure could jam.’

‘He sure could.’

She goes on,

‘He loved his music, That was his life, but he never left Kansas. Cab Calloway wanted him to come to New York to play in his band, but he wouldn’t go. He wouldn’t go anywhere that didn’t allow him to come home to his wife and kids every morning.’

My great grandfather is in the middle playing saxophone and my great uncle Woody is behind him playing clarinet

I smile at this fact pleased to know that some fathers stay true to their commitments with love. I like thinking of my grandmother as a little girl. It helps me to humanize her; to release some of the disappointment i have carried these years when she has neglected me as her granddaughter. We often place expectations on people, who are suppose to represent certain roles in your life. She is my grandmother, but she is also an 85 year old Black woman who has grown up in this world, and whose great grandparents were slaves. It is important to me to be reminded of these things.

She pauses then starts again. I can hear the emotion in her voice as it breaks a little bit,

‘you know its been twenty years since daddy died.’

‘I know’,

I was six, but I remember. I never met my great grandfather, but was fascinated by him. It was difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that I was never going to meet him. I remember my father got some of his old clothes and I would play dress up with them; pretend I was a jazz musician too. It helped me connect with him and my family in my own way.

She continues,

‘Every once in awhile I like to bring out his music and listen to him play. Some of his recordings begin with him introducing the band. I like to hear his voice. I miss him so much. He was such a charismatic man baby. Everyone loved him.’

I begin to cry, because I know. I never met him, but I have loved him deeply all my life. I always related to him. Felt his energy in my own. He inspired me at a young age, and I have carried that inspiration with me my entire life. She goes on to tell me more stories about my grandfather and the book she is writing about his life and her life. I tell her that she inspires me and that I want to help her finish her story. She tells me I will. She also says that I can have the old photographs that I have wanted since I was a girl. Some of which are shown below. We cry together one last time and say our goodbyes.

My grandfather in the newspaper

I am grateful for my grandmothers call and the stories and emotion she shared. I want to help her complete the book. Her story is my story. I always felt that If I could learn the family secrets and archive the history I could understand myself better. I was always hungry for the knowledge. I felt like my family was so fascinating and had all this potential (some realized, some not) to make history. I wanted to be a part of that history; I wanted to live up to my families potential and continue their legacy. I saw my father waste all of his potential and talents in drugs, booze and women. We all have potential. We all have talent and magic that we often don’t get to develop, because this system does not grant us the time or the resources. I am learning from my own failures and failures of my elders so that I may walk down this path with wisdom and acceptance of it all. In order to accomplish this though you need to have an understanding of you history and relationships with your elders is almost necessary to obtain that information. It was difficult for me, because I felt a lot of protectiveness from my grandmother. She would tell me and show me some things, but only a little bit. She was always careful about the information she shared. She also never gave me anything except for a porcelain figurine when I was 10 years old that belonged to my great grandmother, who I am named after. I have treasured this artifact for 16 years now. This frustrated me so much as a kid. I was always searching for who I was; my history; my families history; my ancestors history. When you are mixed race, as I am, your identity creates much confusion for yourself and the world around you. We live in a system that loves clean categories and boxes, but the reality is is this world is built out of contradictions. A glaring contradiction to me is the notion that capitalism is freedom. We are supposedly free, yet we must struggle to pay for the basic necessities of life, while fearing the violence of the systems agents (pigs), who kill us for being queer, being a women, being ‘of color’, being too broke to pay the ever rising bus fare. When you are mixed you are able to see through some of these contradictions, because you live it. It definitely instilled in me a distrust or at least questioning of the government from an early age.

I hadn’t spoken to my grandmother for seven years until recently. My father and I had a falling out when I was 19 that disconnected me from him and that whole side of my family. Six months ago I begin to feel a strong push inside to reconnect; it almost felt like a message from my ancestors. As I became more grounded and trusting of my own intuition I began to craft plans with a close friend to drive to Kansas and look for my grandmother. A few days after sharing these plans with my mother I got a call from her saying that my grandma called looking for me. I felt so much emotion from this news. It affirmed to me that we both need each other right now to help finish the work we know needs to get done. We have only been talking for a few months, but It feels different now. Closer. She is letting me in, and this recent phone conversation really demonstrated that for me. My heart and brain sit heavy in my body. Not from sadness, but from tremendous amounts of love and inspiration. My conversation with my grandmother was more than just a sentimental moment. It was an affirmation from her that the time is right for me to be let in on certain secrets and stories. Family history can be difficult to unearth. However, the times are shifting; energy is shifting. And I am ready for changes that go beyond myself.

My great grandfather 'Daddy Herman' and his beloved alto saxophone

 

A early photograph of my grandmother Marva

Another newspaper clipping of my grandfather

A photograph of my grandmother posing with her band name 'Marva and the Satelites'

 

 

 

 


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