Sunday, May 25, 2008

acutonics or/ mic check one two one two/ a poem in praise of my mama

One time fo the sho shot!!!
two times for the bass!!!!
three time for the treble!!!!
and fo time the race!!!!!





my introduction to sound theraphy came through gospel music. i joined our youth church choir at brentwood baptist church as a teenager. i remember feeling so full of life, enegry, fullness whenever we began to sing praise music. i felt like a fully present member of a community. resounding proclaiming professing my love for the creator.

scratch that

my introduction to the healing aspects of sound came as a girl growing up in my mother's house. saturdays were sacred. ripe with mama daughter check ing, good breakfasts, and cleaning. lots of cleaning against a backdrop of herbie hancock, earth wind and fire, marvin gaye, fleetwood mac, quincy jones, teddy pendergrass and many others. my mom would pop in an 8-track and crank up the turn tables and we would clean and dance and enjoy each other in our home space.

scratch that

pre-school, yes pre-school. four years old. i study at a the local pre school off 610. we are required to learn square dance. we dance and do-si-do and spin our partners and promenade and all that jazz. wow how stereotypically texan is this. although i love to dance, even at four, i was even more drawn to the sounds. i remember feeling like i was moving in and through the sound. looking and thinking back now, i think i felt there was another place on the other side of the sounds coming from the harmonica, guitar, banjo and such. i felt i could travel through sound like it travelled through me.

i still feel this is true.

scratch that

i want to remember what i heard in my mamas belly. i know now that the sound of her voice is one of the many ways i am linked to this amazing woman. i have always been able to tell her emotional state from the sound of her voice. the intonation her pronunciation of my name EEEEEEEEEbony or Ebonyyyyyyyyyy or eBony all meant different things to me growing up and even now. i know this relationship to the sound of my mamas voice and sound in general predates even the twitch in my daddy's smile and the lilt in my mamas laugh that eventually created me, neverthess i meditate on originary enTrances to this aural affair.

point of clarification
when i said scratch three times in the last section of this poem, i was not negating a narrative memory i was actually inviting multiple layers of time and narrative. see hip hop see jazz see toni morrison for more information. reference the dj as well how she piles time on top of sound to make a new now/present/moment. think about how the event is a thing and remembering the event is a new thing and remixing them both is entirely a new thing as well. see and reference the universe's cycles ebbs and flows. reference a conversation with mama dr. ahmad about astrology and cosmic cycles~~~~how the cosmic cycles happen on time and constantly in time but each time a cycles happens the universe is not the same, nor are the people experiencing and moving through the cycles.


this is a poem about sound
this is a poem about sound
this is a poem about sound
this is a poem about sound
this is a poem about sound
this is a poem about sound
this is a poem about sound
this is a poem about sound


listen to erykah badus music. not the lyrics, well yes the lyrics but the music music music. listen to pings, dings, tones, hesis, mantras, noise, silences, flourishes, breaks, holes, holds, and more. watch her make music on stage. gadgets, mixers, orchestrations, (she breaks music with commands like "hold on" cause some moments need silence while others may need sonic layers). pay attention to the how her voice mimics not only instruments but sounds we can find in nature. reference birds, wind, trees, sun sets, internal harmony and discord. reference the recent pics of badu positioned with pitch forks reminds me of ancient egyptian healing rods. these rods were used to create atune the body using the energetic vibrations that could be absorbed aurally or directly by the affected organ. see reference andre 3000/the love below and the mantra "vibrate/ vibrate higher".

this talk about mimicry and nature and pitch and sound in general transports me back in time to what i just wrote about how sound travels the body and how the body travels through sound. so badus sound and possible mirroring of natural sounds is a way to think about recovery and travel. she sings during the intro and outro "the world is gonna turn/ the world is on and on" which references a constant cycle motion fluidity that mirrors how sound travels. "the sun's movement does not bend to the will of humans". i wonder how sound can be interpolated into this system as well.

what i am saying is sound therapy is a method of recovering self, as the self shifts and moves and remixes. sound is a way of collapsing the supposed present/past/future because it is all just time and through sound we can access the selves we want to be we can tune the sufferring parts of our selves and we can highlight our strengths. check out khametic rituals using sound. check out your grand mama humming spirituals. check out a babies laugh. check out a clear day in new york city. check out the sound of your lovers breath. check yourself.


this is a poem about the earth
this is a poem about the earth
this is a poem about the earth
this is a poem about the earth
this is a poem about the earth
this is a poem about the earth
this is a poem about the earth


i am entering a space of intense silence and sound
i am entering a space of intense meditation and prayer
i am entering a space of stillness and motion
i am entering a space of communion and solitude
i am recapturing
soul sonics
alining arits
absorbing yellow green and white light
swallowing brillance
and breathing up butterflies


boom tik boom boom boom tik
boom tik boom boom boom tik
boom tik boom boom boom tik
"think twice think twice"
boom tik boom booom boom tik
boom tik boom boom boom tik
"back in the day now/ back in the day
when things were cool/ well well well/
all we needed was pa pa pa pa pa pa da
all we needed was pa pa pa pa pa pa da"

check the healing rods the hands of the Pa-Hru (or king/queen language of ancient kemit. please note: the term pharoh is an inaccurate translations. reference my beloved elders, queen afua, and others who taught me this).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Women, Rock! and Politics Conference 2008
Institute for Women's Studies, UGA
Athens, Georgia

Everyone is welcome to this free conference. For information on local
accommodations, registration, and other details, go to

Athens locals don't miss keynote performance by queer and feminist rock icon
Gretchen Phillips, 6pm Saturday
( and after-conference party
with guest dj Melissa York.

Conference Program

Friday, May 30, Edge Hall, Hugh Hodgson School of Music, UGA

5:00 Opening reception

5:30 Welcome and Introductions

6:00 Fred Maus “52 Girls” A talk on the women of the B52s

7:00 Latin-American Scenes
Lesley Feracho , “Contesting the Nation :Women and Rock in Latin America”
Patricia Vergara “Funkeiras: Transgressing the Place of the Poor, Black, and
Female in Rio de Janeiro”

SATURDAY, May 31, Tasty World, downtown Athens

12:00 Brunch Buffet

1:00 Girls Rock Camps Collective, “Creativity, Community and Confidence
through Rock & Roll: Girls Rock Camps”

2:15 Rocking the Margins
Matt Jones, "(Re)discovering the Music of Judee Sill"
Sarah Cozort, “Women in Experimental Music”

3:00 Break

3:15 Stella Pace, “Riot Grrrl Self-Esteem Now: A Multimedia Performance”

4:00 Hip/Hop Feminisms
Ebony Noelle Golden, “Sonic Soul: Erykah Badu's Performance Practice”
Sarah Young Ngoh, “Black Motherhood in Hip/Hop and R&B Music”
Marnie Binfield, “Women’s Contributions to ‘Conscious Rap’”

5:45 Break

6:00 Keynote Performance/Presentation Gretchen Phillips

9:00- After-party at Tasty World with special DJ Melissa York, of The Butchies

UGA to host second annual conference on Women, Rock! and Politics

Athens, Ga.—The Institute for Women’s Studies at the University of Georgia is
hosting its second annual conference, Women, Rock and Politics, from Friday,
May 30 to Saturday, May 31.

This year’s conference brings together a great range of talks, images, and
performances on topics ranging from Girls Rock Camps, to hip hop feminism, to
the riot grrrl movement, to women in rock in Latin America.

The conference will begin on Friday at 5:00 p.m. with a reception and
presentations in Edge Hall at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music on the
University of Georgia campus, followed by a talk on the women of the B-52s by
renowned music scholar Fred Maus (UVA). Saturday's presentations and
performances, including keynote performance by rock icon Gretchen Phillips,
and conference after-party with guest dj Melissa York, will be at Tasty World in
downtown Athens. For a full program please visit

The conference is free and open to the public. Edge Hall is located in the Hugh
Hodgson School of Music, Third Floor, at 250 River Rd on the eastside of
campus. Tasty World is located at 312 East Broad Street in downtown Athens,
Ga. For more information contact the Institute for Women’s Studies at 706-

Molly Moreland Myers
Public Relations Coordinator
Institute for Women's Studies
University of Georgia
706-542-0066 (voice)
706-542-0049 (fax)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Envisioning An Artist's Manifesta

Gumbo ya ya/ or this is why we speak in tongues:

Documenting Womanist Performance Methodology

Envisioning an Artist’s Manifesta

Ebony Noelle Golden

I am the daughter of Pearl Glover, Bertha Sims, and Betty Sims. I am a Black woman who calls Houston, TX and Shreveport, LA home. I am a poet who writes and lives a poetic sensibility. I have many mamas, aunts, sistas, and nieces. Billie Sims, Shellie Sims, Dorothy Sims, Linda Sims, Cheryl McKnight, Nelma Hicks, Heather Hicks, Jayla Dancey, Joi Dancey, Jayna Dancey are some of the women and girl-children who inform who I am today. This manifesta is for them. Ashe o!


I guess that waltzes

Do not move me.

I have no sympathy

For symphonies.

I guess I hummed the blues too early

And spent too many midnights

Out wailing to the rain.

-Assata Shakur

In “The Quilt: Towards a twenty-first black feminist ethnography” Meida McNeal asserts, “The concept of diaspora in relation to Africa has undergone radical definitional shifts. Across these shifts in the use of diaspora as process, product, space and identity, the tropes of ‘African-ness’ and ‘blackness’ have been under constant negation, not solely on theoretical terrain but in actual embodied practice,” (60). I am intrigued and disoriented by the polyvalent nature of Blackness. This disorientation grounds me in an ongoing process that thinks about the violent nature of translation as a learned, expected and constantly re-imagined behavior in Black women’s daily experiences. As I engage language translation, I translate my body and my spirit. As I interact with others, I switch codes, “pass”, rub against identities that are not quite my own. The violent act of self-translation insists I ask, who’s language resides in my mouth? I struggle to locate myself in the ideas swirling around in my head. The indoctrination of the academy, the work of popular media outlets, the social fabric of this society all vie for space inside my body, and often win out over the desires, ideas, projects and processes that reside within the intimate space of my interior.

Is it possible to understand notions of Black womanhood in terms of the construction of language or “metalanguage”? Homi K. Bhabha reminds us, “The linguistic difference that informs any cultural performance is dramatized in the common semiotic account of the disjuncture between the subject of a proposition (enonce) and the subject of enunciation, which is not represented in the statement but which is the acknowledgement of its discursive embeddedness and address, its cultural positionality, its reference to a present time and a specific space” (270). With this in mind, I recognize my desire to write myself into a space, write space onto my body or write over/through the gap or “disjuncture”/disjunction/break that seems to separate Black women from the rest of the world. Writing can be a set of practices and actions that reconnect the self to the self, intimate and global communities.

The failure to write/act across the gap is one of the major failures of the women’s liberation or white feminist movement. In “African-American Women’s History and the Metalanguage of Race” Evelyn Higginbotham quotes Elizabeth Spelman’s claim that, “White feminists typically discern two separate identities for black women, the racial and the gender, and conclude that the gender identity of black women is the same as their own: “In other words, the womanness underneath the black woman’s skin is a white woman’s and deep down inside the Latina woman is an Anglo woman waiting to burst through” (6). Additionally, bell hooks describes the failure of feminist coalition building between Black and white women. hooks states, “One reason white women active in the feminist movement were unwilling to confront racism was their arrogant assumption that their call for Sisterhood was a non-racist gesture. Many white women have said to me, “we wanted black women and other non-white women to join the movement,” totally unaware of their perception that they somehow “own” the movement, that they are the “hosts” inviting us as “guests” (53). I ask myself: what is the skin under my skin? What is the voice within my voice? This vacuum that theoretically separates the blackness from womanness, self from self, is the void I speak of/over/through. I need to know, quite literally, what are the societal and gravitational forces displacing me from myself?

I am a refugee in my own skin.

Higginbotham’s article thinks about race as language. She writes, “Race serves as a “global sign,” a “metalanguage,” since it speaks about and lends meaning to a host of terms and expressions, to myriad aspects of life that would otherwise fall outside the referential domain of race” (5). In the case of Black women, one must consider what signifies us historically and contemporarily. What are the markers, traces, utterances that signal Black womanness? Hostense Spillers begins her essay “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book” with the following declaration, “Let’s face it. I am a marked woman, but not everybody knows my name. ‘Peaches’ and ‘Brown Sugar,’ ‘Sapphire’ and ‘Earth Mother,’ ‘Aunty,’ ‘Granny,’ ‘God’s ‘Holy Fool,’ a ‘Miss Ebony First,’ or ‘Black Woman at the Podium’ ” (65). Again words miss the gap. They contain instead of explicate who I am. There, in the definition, is another fissure I must leap across/out of the boundness of a commodified identity into the space of expansiveness. I find redemption in rejecting the “liminal” notions an constructions Black womanhood.

I speak her name










Mbaba Mwana Waresa


Attempting to stretch my body across the gulf, stretching towards myself, stretching myself through translation is more than a kinesthetic or alchemic performance. It requires a seismic shift in the way the social constructs the intimate and the global constructs the individual. I agree with Renee Alexander Craft who believes, “African/black women have all too often been imagined, defined, labeled and packaged in ways that are at odds with who we are and understand ourselves to be” (56). The disjuncture is significant. This is why I am fixated on the sets of practices and the nuanced lexicon of Black women’s experiences. Not to limit our identity, but instead to bathe in the layered textures of our diversity. The representations and definitions are limiting, hurtful and sometimes backwards. Moreover, the definitions and representations are transmitted as truth largely by people who do not speak the same language I speak.

I am gravitating and maneuvering to the center of the universe. In order to transport myself through language and performance I first must start here, center stage. I want to stretch myself beyond the aforementioned terms. I am “Mother” but my identity, as Spillers insists, does not rest or begin with who or what I produce, rear or suckle. I speak across gulfs of legacy, trauma, kinship, futurity, expectancy, culture, body, space, and time to be seen or recognized by certain institutions or institutional representatives; but more so, to be recognized by myself. The issue of invisibility, or speaking oneself visible, resonates like the reverberating sound of a Buddhists’ singing bowl. Recently, I have begun to think about language as a set of ideas and actions in terms of the phenomenon of glossolalia, roughly translated as “speaking in tongues”.

This concept has been helpful in thinking about ideas and actions that speak to how specific individuals or communities linguistically and performatively engage with others. Amiri Baraka, in all his flawed brilliance and beauty, writes in Blues People “The spirits do not descend without music”. His ideas vocalize how spirit/soul/”re”memory/body are related to language and performance practices. I believe Black women are masters of glossolalic practices as we translate, not only the language the gods, the language of ourselves through our skins, actions and vocalizations.

Perhaps, Black womanhood is an avant-garde/experimental performance. Both the language, as I am writing and thinking about it, and Black womanhood push corporeal frontiers and urge ontological shifts in the manner in which human beings relate to sometimes hostile and other times lulling geographies. Blackness, as Adrian Piper, E. Patrick Johnson, and other notable scholars theorize, is just as slippery as the definitions of experimental/ avant-garde performance. Depending on where one is positioned or positions oneself on this stage called the globe, the United States, New York City, or some other space, Blackness looks and performs quite differently than one might assume.

E. Patrick Johnson teases out Blackness in Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity. Johnson writes, “Blackness, too, is slippery—ever beyond the reach of one’s grasp. Once you think you have a hold on it, it transforms into something else and travels in another direction. Its elusiveness does not preclude one from trying to fix it, to pin it down, however—for the pursuit of authenticity is inevitably an emotional and moral one.” (2) Johnson explicates how blackness serves as a means to wiggle out of the crawl space or what Marcus Wallace refers to as the “scrawl” space of identity as it is constructed by genetic and social structures.

I experience and negotiate this world through this corporeal and affective reality. Black skin, Black sensibilities, Black acts conflate with the dominant discourses and hegemonies and make a real substantive relationship with myself and other Black women a job I work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Although current scholarship suggests we are possibly transitioning into a post-racial moment, I am still here writing visibility across gulfs. I cannot be evacuated from this skin or this legacy. I suggest that constructions of Black womanhood be expressed through the cultural practice of gumbo ya ya as theorized by Luisah Teish. She writes, “Gumbo ya ya is a creole term that means “Everybody talks at once,” It is stream of consciousness, it is argumentative, and it is loud! The person speaks comments on the subject at hand, any stories from the past and future probabilities that are seemingly relevant to the subject, the immediate environment, and their own inner process, all within the same unpunctuated paragraph. While the principal person is speaking, all other participants(who cannot truly be called “listeners”) are preparing what they’re going to say next (which cannot truly be called a ‘response’). The next person acquires “the floor” simply by cutting in and speaking louder than the present speaker. The new “floor master” is allowed a sentence or two and then gumbo ya ya starts up again” (139-140).

Gumbo ya ya, perhaps traces its genealogy back to the origins of the southern dish that bares the same name. Gumbo ya ya is a stew. Depending on the region, gumbo ya ya may contain different ingredients including shrimp, sausage, chicken, crab, and a myriad of vegetables. The main and most fundamental component of gumbo ya ya is the roux or what I call the soul of the dish. The roux is the gravy that holds all the ingredients together. Again, depending on one’s location the roux maybe either a tomato based gravy or a brown gravy made from the fat rendering of a piece of cooked meat. Gumbo ya ya features and highlights a menagerie of distinct and discernable flavors that collaborate to create an entire sensory experience.

Teish’s ideas about gumbo ya ya are similar to those theorized in “The Quilt” written by a collective of sista-scholars who matriculated through various degree programs at Northwestern University. The essay articulates theory and praxis for a contemporary and critical Black feminist ethnography. These notions of quilting, stitching together, stirring up all inform my current project, Gumbo ya ya/ or this is why we speak in tongues: Documenting Womanist Performance Methodology. Media McNeal unravels a series of questions that problematize process such as Gumbo ya ya/ or this is why we speak in tongues in “The Quilt”. She asks, “How do we – as scholars who are cultural workers – complicate debates about ownership, tradition, innovation and authority by tracking some bits of culture and eclipsing others? How does what we craft on paper and in performance intervene, making some small dent in established perceptions of what we thought we knew or what we ignored up until now” (73)? McNeal’s questions are indeed relevant and necessary in untangling such a complicated historical and contemporary narrative. Her questions also suggest that work must be done to hone methodological practices approaches to Black womanhood that critically and responsibly engage such issues that pertain to the “intimate histories” and cultural practices of Black women. Gumbo ya ya/ or this is why we speak in tongues desires to engage similar questions that further complicate scholarly and artistic engagement in and through Black womanhood.

Gumbo Yaya/ or this is why we speak in tongues is an artistic and spiritual work conceived by members of the Black Women in Performance Studies Work Group at New York University, under my facilitation and desire to spend a year in meditation of the issues articulated throughout this manifesta. Together we actualized Gumbo Yaya to highlight black women’s cultural production in relationship to community, self, legacy, spirituality and womanism. The piece was developed collaboratively over a six month period with women scholars and activists in New York City, Durham, NC, Atlanta, Georgia, and Houston, TX. Inter-generational narratives of spirituality and healing ground this creative and scholarly process, along with performances of healing and movement.

Gumbo Yaya/ or this is why we speak in tongues draws on the rich legacy of womanism as articulated by Chikwenye Okonjo Ogun-yemi and Alice Walker among others. Additionally, this process shapes and defines the practice of womanism as it performed presently by younger generations of black women. By galvanizing the energy of our foremothers, we intend to “make something new” as it is suggested through the artistic production and scholarship of Anna Deavere Smith.

Gumbo ya ya/ or this is why we speak in tongues works through Black women’s cultural practices as a means of highlighting the diverse experiences of the participants while enjoying experiences of solidarity and unity. This exploration critically engages notions of authenticity, authorship, voice, and expressivity as we question the agency and efficacy among us. We reclaim the legitimacy of our experiences and the power to narrate our stories as we live them in our own tongues and through our own language and practices.

i don’t wanna write

in english or spanish

i wanna sing make you dance

like the bata dance scream

twitch hips wit me cuz

i done forgot all abt words

aint got no definitions

i wanna whirl

with you

our whole body

wrapped like a ripe mango

- Ntozake Shange

Shange writes about the importance of nuanced articulation of identity in her essay “takin a solo/ a poetic possibility/ a poetic imperative”. Shange argues, “You never doubt bessie smith’s voice. I cd not say to you: that’s chaka khan singing ‘empty bed blues’. Not cuz chaka khan can’t sing empty bed blues/ but cuz bessie smith sound a certain way. Her way. If tina turner stood right here next to me & simply said ‘yes’…we wd all know/ no matter how much I love her/ no matter what kinda wig-hat I decide to wear/ my ‘yes’ will never be tina’s ‘yes’” (2). Ultimately the work of Gumbo ya ya/ or this is why we speak in tongues, in some ways, is exactly what Shange describes. The process provides a space for Black women rehydrate the flattened identities mapped onto or voices and bodies. The process provides a space through shared legacies through multiple tongues and movements that speak a communal truth.


Afua, Queen Sacred Woman. New York, NY: Random House, 2000.

Baraka, Amiri Blues People: Negro Music in White America. LeRoi Jones, 1963.

Collins, Patricia Hill Black Feminist Thought. New York, NY: Routledge, 2000.

Craft, Renee Alexander, McNeal, Meida, Mwangola, Mshai, Zabriskie, Queen Meccasia. “The

Quilt: Towards a twenty-first century black feminist ethnography”. Performance Research. Vol. 12. Issue 3. Sept. 2007.

Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist

Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.”

University of Chicago Legal Forum. 1989.

Ervin, Hazel Arnett. African American Literary Criticism. Twayne Publishers: New York, NY,


Hine, Darlene Clark, King, Wilma, Reed, Linda. Eds. “We Specialize in the WhollyImpossible:”

A Reader in Black Women’s History. Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishing, 1995.

hooks, bell. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1984.

Johnson, E. Patrick Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity

Moten, Fred. “Taste Dissonance Flavor Escape: Preface for a solo by Miles Davis”

Women & Performance: a Journal of feminist theory, vol. 17, No. 2, July 2007, 217-246.

Piper, Adrian. Cornered. 1988. Google Video. 19 Apr. 2008.

Piper, Adrian. Everything. Feb. 2008. Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York. Apr. 2008.

Piper, Adrian. “Talking to Myself: The Autobiography of an Art Object.” Out of Order, Out of Sight: Volume 1: Selected Writings in Meta-Art 1968-1992. Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, p 29-53.Piper,

Shakur, Asatta. Assata. Zed Light Books: Chicago, IL, 1987.

Shange, Ntozake. for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf.

McMillian Publishing:New York, NY, 1977.

Shange, Ntozake. Nappy Edges. St. Martin’s Press: New York, NY, 1972.

Spillers, Hortense J. “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book.” Diacritics, Vol. 17, No. 2, Culture and Countermemory: The “American” Connection (Summer, 1987), pp. 65-81

Teish, Luisah. Jambalaya: The Natural Woman’s Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals.

Harper Collins: New York, NY, 1985.

Wade-Gayles, Gloria. My Soul is a Witness: African-American Women’s Spirituality. Beacon

Press: Boston, MA, 1995.

Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: Orlando, FL,


Wallace, Marcus O. Constructing the black masculine; identity and ideality in African

American men’s literature and culture, 1775-1995. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

thank you adrian piper for everything~~~Adrian Piper’s “Cornered” and “Everything”: Debunking Notions of the Post-Racial Moment

Adrian Piper’s “Cornered” and “Everything”: Debunking Notions of the Post-Racial Moment
(for New Orleans, Meghan Williams, Sean Bell, et. al)

Maybe, just possibly, blackness is an avant gard/experimental performance; just as performances that push corporeal frontiers or urge ontological shifts in the manner in which human beings relate to sometimes hostile and other times lulling geographies. Blackness, as Adrain Piper, E. Patrick Johnson, and other noted scholars theorize, is just as slippery as the definitions of experimental/ avant gard performance. Depending on where one is positioned or positions oneself on this stage called the globe, the United States, New York City, or some other space, Blackness looks and performs quite differently than one might assume.
E. Patrick Johnson teases out the complexities of this issue in his book Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity. In the introduction, Johnson writes, “Blackness, too, is slippery—ever beyond the reach of one’s grasp. Once you think you have a hold on it, it transforms into something else and travels in another direction. Its elusiveness does not preclude one from trying to fix it, to pin it down, however—for the pursuit of authenticity is inevitably an emotional and moral one.” (2) Johnson reveal here how blackness serves as a means to wiggle out of the crawl space or what Marcus Wallace refers to as the “scrawl” space of identity as it is constructed by genetic and social structures.

While I am sure Blackness oscillates, wiggles, rewinds and “sidewinds” as Richard Schechner speaks of as a characteristic of performance, Blackness still is. I cringe at the thought of not being able to index at the site of collective and “intimate history”, joys, traumas, cultural practices and kinship Blackness. I am concerned about writers, thinkers and artists who assert we are in moving into a post-racial moment. Who decides this? Who is empowered to make such decisions? And what cost, if I choose to accept this thrust, do I pay not move pass this skin and this experience in this skin and these memories and these relationships to jump on the post –racial moment.

In “Cornered” Adrian Piper bursts the collective bubble of white and Black America. She reveals that most of us are Black. Furthermore, she suggests that Blackness is a dilemma. At first I was unnerved by this presumed assumption but soon she revealed what I interpreted as the real problem. The issue is what are our strategies for dealing with our collective Blackness? This, at first, I believed was directed solely at the white people watching the video, but Blackness is a genetic and social fact Black folks have to deal with as well. Piper proposes that white people should not assume everyone is white or that everyone wants to be white. Furthermore, she hints to the Black folks who may be watching that we should be doing something about this Blackness issue as well. We should be insisting, resisting, proclaiming and performing our Blackness no matter the social costs. For Piper, passing is not an option. The film concludes with an invocation—Welcome to the struggle, the “beautiful struggle” for wholeness and Blackness and voice.
May 2, 2008. I am still a little groggy from pulling an all-nighter. An organization called Creative Time is on Campus for the “Everything” project. The project centers around Piper’s most recent artistic work that was recently installed at Elizabeth Gallery. Creative Time is on campus painting “everything will be taken away” on people’s foreheads with henna paint. Barabara Pollack’s article “Adrian Piper, “Everything” includes an important quote about Pipers work. She quotes, “Once you have taken everything away from a man, he is no longer in your power. He is free. “ She adds, “This quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn is the inspiration for Adrian Piper’s “Everything” series.” I planned to have my forehead painted, but nevertheless I slept instead.

I ventured to the gallery to see the exhibit. Having admired Piper’s work from afar it was a little disheveling seeing it so up-close and personal. Stark white walls and the ominous phrase disorient me. This is clearly about space, power, race in the Minimalist tradition she is known for. A hard to make out video of Meghan Williams are situated in one corner. The mirror watches, or reflects, me as I watch the video. I feel tugged and pulled as if Piper is standing here asking interrogating me in the calm and subdued voice she utilized in “Cornered”. She asks, “What are you going to do for Meghan?” My kinship with her, Piper and Williams, makes me even more ill-at-ease. I cannot make out her voice. I cannot make out my own.

I am not in a dark room with several chairs. I see a grid and dots, dancing a freaky choreography. The dots are connected by lines. I feel alone. Perhaps, the dots represent my relation to those around me. Again the Minimalist aesthetic employed by Piper, makes me feel the room is naked and that I am taking up a lot of space. These open spaces make me feel as if she intentionally left the room bare so that I can think, not so much about the art, but my relationship to it.
Piper’s work is about global positioning. It is about finger pointing. Although in “Cornered”, Piper says she does not mean to antagonize her audience I believe she does , and rightfully so. Everything has been taken away, and now even Blackness is being stolen by progressives, liberals, artists, scholars who choose not to deal with the messiness and presence of it.

Suggested Media and Readings
Sweet Honey in the Rock “We Who Believe in Freedom”
Johnson, E. Patrick, Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity
see "Cornered" posted to the blog

ebony noelle golden, mfa

Friday, May 02, 2008

gumbo yaya (the film)

visit for more information

Gumbo Yaya (the film)

visit for more information

Calendar of Events

  • June 1- Official Launch of Betty's Daughter Arts Collaborative
  • May 10, 7 pm, Gumbo YaYa @ Roses and Bread Women's Poetry Reading, Performance/Body Insallation, Brecht Forum NYC
  • May 10, all day, Experimental Theatre Final Performances NYU
  • May 7-8, all day, Gumbo YaYa, MA Symposium NYU
  • April 23, 6 pm Gumbo YaYa, -ism Gala NYU
  • March 26, 7 pm, Gumbo Yaya/ or this is why we speak in tongues, Tisch School of the Arts, Forum Series
  • Feb. 7, Brecht Forum, 730, moderating NO! film screening
  • Jan. 4, Common Ground Theatre, 8 pm, performance art night---Holding Space (a love poem for Meghan Williams)
  • Dec. 12, Ripple in Brooklyn, 8 pm, sharing poetic vibes for a jazz/blues show
  • Oct 27, Duke University, 9:45 am, Women Engage Hip-Hop Panel
  • Sept 14, PS @ Tisch, How Much Can the Body Hold
  • Sept 19, Righetous AIM, NC A & T
  • August 31-Sept 2, 75TH Highlander Anniversary
  • Anti-prison Industrial complex performance, Durham, NC
  • April 30 Shout Out, Carrboro, NC
  • April 24 Fingernails Across Chalkboard Reading, Washington, DC
  • April 14 Poetry Month Reading, Durham, NC
  • 3/31 Ringing Ear Reading, Chapel Hill, NC
  • Wednesday 3/21 - 7 pm Miller Morgan Auditorium, Performative Healing and the Work of Ntozake Shange, Lecture