Thursday, April 24, 2008

thank you adrain piper...for everything

thank you adrian piper...for everything


Learn more about Adrian Piper at - www.adrianpiper.com






Dear Editor:

Please don’t call me a black artist.
Please don’t call me a black philosopher.
Please don’t call me an African American artist.
Please don’t call me an African American philosopher.

Please don’t call me a woman artist.
Please don’t call me a woman philosopher.
Please don’t call me a female artist.
Please don’t call me a female philosopher.

Please don’t call me a black woman artist.
Please don’t call me a black woman philosopher.
Please don’t call me an African American woman artist.
Please don’t call me an African American woman philosopher.
Please don’t call me a black female artist.
Please don’t call me a black female philosopher.
Please don’t call me an African American female artist.
Please don’t call me an African American female philosopher.
Please don’t call me a female black artist.
Please don’t call me a female black philosopher.
Please don’t call me a female African American artist.
Please don’t call me a female African American philosopher.

Please don’t call me an artist who happens to be black.
Please don’t call me a philosopher who happens to be black.
Please don’t call me an artist who happens to be African American.
Please don’t call me a philosopher who happens to be African American.

Please don’t call me an artist who happens to be a woman.
Please don’t call me a philosopher who happens to be a woman.
Please don’t call me an artist who happens to be female.
Please don’t call me a philosopher who happens to be female.

Please don’t call me an artist who happens to be black and a woman.
Please don’t call me a philosopher who happens to be black and a woman.
Please don’t call me an artist who happens to be a woman and black.
Please don’t call me a philosopher who happens to be a woman and black.
Please don’t call me an artist who happens to be African American and a woman.
Please don’t call me a philosopher who happens to be African American and a woman.
Please don’t call me an artist who happens to be a woman and African American.
Please don’t call me a philosopher who happens to be a woman and African American.
Please don’t call me an artist who happens to be black and female.
Please don’t call me a philosopher who happens to be black and female.
Please don’t call me an artist who happens to be female and black.
Please don’t call me a philosopher who happens to be female and black.
Please don’t call me an artist who happens to be African American and female.
Please don’t call me a philosopher who happens to be African American and female.
Please don’t call me an artist who happens to be female and African American.
Please don’t call me a philosopher who happens to be female and African American.

Please don’t call me a black artist and philosopher.
Please don’t call me a black philosopher and artist.
Please don’t call me an African American artist and philosopher.
Please don’t call me an African American philosopher and artist.

Please don’t call me a woman artist and philosopher.
Please don’t call me a woman philosopher and artist.
Please don’t call me a female artist and philosopher.
Please don’t call me a female philosopher and artist.

Please don’t call me a black woman artist and philosopher.
Please don’t call me a black woman philosopher and artist.
Please don’t call me an African American woman artist and philosopher.
Please don’t call me an African American woman philosopher and artist.
Please don’t call me a black female artist and philosopher.
Please don’t call me a black female philosopher and artist.
Please don’t call me an African American female artist and philosopher.
Please don’t call me an African American female philosopher and artist.
Please don’t call me a female black artist and philosopher.
Please don’t call me a female black philosopher and artist.
Please don’t call me a female African American artist and philosopher.
Please don’t call me a female African American philosopher and artist.

Please don’t call me an artist and philosopher who happens to be black.
Please don’t call me a philosopher and artist who happens to be black.
Please don’t call me an artist and philosopher who happens to be African American.
Please don’t call me a philosopher and artist who happens to be African American.

Please don’t call me an artist and philosopher who happens to be a woman.
Please don’t call me a philosopher and artist who happens to be a woman.
Please don’t call me an artist and philosopher who happens to be female.
Please don’t call me a philosopher and artist who happens to be female.

Please don’t call me an artist and philosopher who happens to be black and a woman.
Please don’t call me a philosopher and artist who happens to be black and a woman.
Please don’t call me an artist and philosopher who happens to be a woman and black.
Please don’t call me a philosopher and artist who happens to be a woman and black.
Please don’t call me an artist and philosopher who happens to be African American and a woman.
Please don’t call me a philosopher and artist who happens to be African American and a woman.
Please don’t call me an artist and philosopher who happens to be a woman and African American.
Please don’t call me a philosopher and artist who happens to be a woman and African American.
Please don’t call me an artist and philosopher who happens to be black and female.
Please don’t call me a philosopher and artist who happens to be black and female.
Please don’t call me an artist and philosopher who happens to be female and black.
Please don’t call me a philosopher and artist who happens to be female and black.
Please don’t call me an artist and philosopher who happens to be African American and female.
Please don’t call me a philosopher and artist who happens to be African American and female.
Please don’t call me an artist and philosopher who happens to be female and African American.
Please don’t call me a philosopher and artist who happens to be female and African American.

Dear Editor,
I hope you will bring to my attention any permutations I have overlooked.
I write to inform you that
I have earned the right to be called an artist.
I have earned the right to be called a philosopher.
I have earned the right to be called an artist and philosopher.
I have earned the right to be called a philosopher and artist.
I have earned the right to call myself anything I like.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.
Adrian Piper

1 January 2003

Saturday, April 05, 2008

blackness, art, politcs oh my!!!




By HOLLAND COTTER
Published: March 30, 2008
IN the 1970s the African-American artist Adrian Piper donned an Afro wig and a fake mustache and prowled the streets of various cities in the scowling, muttering guise of the Mythic Being, a performance-art version of a prevailing stereotype, the black male as a mugger, hustler, gangsta.

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Paul Fortin/Pope.L
The artist William Pope.L, on the cover of the catalog to his 2003 retrospective exhibition, “eRacism.” More Photos »

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On Race and Art In the photographs that resulted you can see what she was up to. In an era when some politicians and much of the popular press seemed to be stoking racial fear, she was turning fear into farce — but serious, and disturbing, farce, intended to punch a hole in pervasive fictions while acknowledging their power.

Recently a new kind of Mythic Being arrived on the scene, the very opposite of the one Ms. Piper introduced some 30 years ago. He doesn’t mutter; he wears business suits; he smiles. He is by descent half black African, half white American. His name is Barack Obama.

On the rancorous subject of the country’s racial history he isn’t antagonistic; he speaks of reconciliation, of laying down arms, of moving on, of closure. He is presenting himself as a 21st-century postracial leader, with a vision of a color-blind, or color-embracing, world to come.

Campaigning politicians talk solutions; artists talk problems. Politics deals in goals and initiatives; art, or at least interesting art, in a language of doubt and nuance. This has always been true when the subject is race. And when it is, art is often ahead of the political news curve, and heading in a contrary direction.

In a recent solo debut at Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery in Chelsea a young artist named Rashid Johnson created a fictional secret society of African-American intellectuals, a cross between Mensa and the Masons. At first uplift seemed to be the theme. The installation was framed by a sculpture resembling giant cross hairs. Or was it a microscope lens, or a telescope’s? The interpretive choice was yours. So was the decision to stay or run. Here was art beyond old hot-button statements, steering clear of easy condemnations and endorsements. But are artists like Mr. Johnson making “black” art? Political art? Identity art? There are no answers, or at least no unambiguous ones.

Since Ms. Piper’s Mythical Being went stalking in the 1970s — a time when black militants and blaxploitation movies reveled in racial difference — artists have steadily challenged prevailing constructs about race.

As multiculturalism entered mainstream institutions in the 1980s, the black conceptualist David Hammons stayed outdoors, selling snowballs on a downtown Manhattan sidewalk. And when, in the 1990s, Robert Colescott was selected as the first African-American to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, he brought paintings of figures with mismatched racial features and skin tones, political parables hard to parse.

At the turn of the present millennium, with the art market bubbling up and the vogue for identity politics on the wane, William Pope.L — the self-described “friendliest black artist in America” — belly-crawled his way up Broadway, the Great White Way, in a Superman outfit, and ate copies of The Wall Street Journal.

Today, as Mr. Obama pitches the hugely attractive prospect of a postracial society, artists have, as usual, already been there, surveyed the terrain and sent back skeptical, though hope-tinged, reports. And you can read those reports in art all around New York this spring, in retrospective surveys like “Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution” currently at the P.S 1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens, in the up-to-the-minute sampler that is the 2008 Whitney Biennial, in gallery shows in Chelsea and beyond, and in the plethora of art fairs clinging like barnacles to the Armory Show on Pier 94 this weekend.

“Wack!” is a good place to trace a postracial impulse in art going back decades. Ms. Piper is one of the few African-American artists in the show, along with Howardena Pindell and Lorraine O’Grady. All three began their careers with abstract work, at one time the form of black art most acceptable to white institutions, but went on to address race aggressively.

In a 1980 performance video, “Free, White and 21,” Ms. Pindell wore whiteface to deliver a scathing rebuke of art-world racism. In the same year Ms. O’Grady introduced an alter ego named “Mlle Bourgeoise Noire” who, dressed in a beauty-queen gown sewn from white formal gloves, crashed museum openings to protest all-white shows. A few years later Ms. Piper, who is light skinned, began to selectively distribute a printed calling card at similar social events. It read:

Dear Friend,

I am black. I am sure you did not realize this when you made/laughed at/agreed with that racist remark. In the past I have attempted to alert white people to my racial identity in advance. Unfortunately, this invariably causes them to react to me as pushy, manipulative or socially inappropriate. Therefore, my policy is to assume that white people do not make these remarks, even when they believe there are not black people present, and to distribute this card when they do.

I regret any discomfort my presence is causing you, just as I am sure you regret the discomfort your racism is causing me.

Sincerely yours,

Adrian Margaret Smith Piper

Although these artists’ careers took dissimilar directions, in at least some of their work from the ’70s and ’80s they all approached race, whiteness as well as blackness, as a creative medium. Race is treated as a form of performance; an identity that could, within limits, be worn or put aside; and as a diagnostic tool to investigate social values and pathologies.

Ms. Piper’s take on race as a form of creative nonfiction has had a powerful influence on two generations of African-Americans who, like Mr. Obama, didn’t experience the civil rights movement firsthand, and who share a cosmopolitan attitude toward race. In 2001 that attitude found corner-turning expression in “Freestyle,” an exhibition organized at the Studio Museum in Harlem by its director, Thelma Golden.

When Ms. Golden and her friend the artist Glenn Ligon called the 28 young American artists “postblack,” it made news. It was a big moment. If she wasn’t the first to use the term, she was the first to apply it to a group of artists who, she wrote, were “adamant about not being labeled ‘black’ artists, though their work was steeped, in fact deeply interested, in redefining complex notions of blackness.”

The work ranged from mural-size images of police helicopters painted with hair pomade by Kori Newkirk, who lives in Los Angeles, to computer-assisted geometric abstract painting by the New York artist Louis Cameron. Mr, Newkirk’s work came with specific if indirect ethnic references; Mr. Cameron’s did not. Although “black” in the Studio Museum context, they would lose their racial associations in an ethnically neutral institution like the Museum of Modern Art.

Ethnically neutral? That’s just a code-term for white, the no-color, the everything-color. For whiteness is as much — or as little — a racial category as blackness, though it is rarely acknowledged as such wherever it is the dominant, default ethnicity. Whiteness is yet another part of the postracial story. Like blackness, it has become a complicated subject for art. And few have explored it more forcefully and intimately than Nayland Blake.

Mr. Blake, 48, is the child of a black father and a white mother. In various performance pieces since the 1990s he has dressed up as a giant rabbit, partly as a reference to Br’er Rabbit of Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories, a wily animal who speaks in Southern black dialect and who survives capture by moving fast and against expectations.

In 2001 Mr. Blake appeared in a video with another artist, AA Bronson. Each had his face slathered with cake frosting, chocolate in Mr. Blake’s case, vanilla in Mr. Bronson’s. When then two men exchanged a long kiss, the colors, and presumably the flavors, began to blend. Shared love, the implication was, dissolves distinctions between “black” and “white,” which, as racial categories, are cosmetic, superficial.

As categories they are also explosive. In 1984, when Mr. Hammons painted a poster of the Rev. Jesse Jackson as a blond, blue-eyed Caucasian and exhibited it outdoors in Washington, the piece was trashed by a group of African-American men. Mr, Hammons intended the portrait, “How Ya Like Me Now,” as a comment on the paltry white support for Mr. Jackson’s presidential bid that year. Those who attacked it assumed the image was intended as an insult to Mr. Jackson.

More recently, when Kara Walker cut out paper silhouettes of fantasy slave narratives, with characters — black and white alike — inflicting mutual violence, she attracted censure from some black artists. At least some of those objecting had personal roots in the civil rights years and an investment in art as a vehicle for racial pride, social protest and spiritual solace.

Ms. Walker, whose work skirts any such overt commitments, was accused of pandering to a white art market with an appetite for images of black abjection. She was called, in effect, a sellout to her race.

In a television interview a few weeks ago, before he formed plans to deliver his speech on race, Mr. Obama defended his practice of backing off from discussion of race in his campaign. He said it was no longer a useful subject in the national dialogue; we’re over it, or should be.

But in fact it can be extremely useful. There is no question that his public profile has been enhanced by his Philadelphia address, even if the political fallout in terms of votes has yet to be gauged.

Race can certainly be used to sell art too, and the results can be also be unpredictable. As with politics, timing is crucial.

In 1992 the white artist team Pruitt-Early (Rob Pruitt and Walter Early) presented a gallery exhibition called “The Red Black Green Red White and Blue Project.” Its theme was the marketing of African-American pop culture, with an installation of black-power posters, dashiki cloth and tapes of soul music bought in Harlem.

What might, at a later time or with different content, have been seen as a somewhat dated consumerist critique proved to be a public relations disaster. The artists were widely condemned as racist and all but disappeared from the art world.

Eight years later, with the cooling of identity politics, a show called “Hip-Hop Nation: Roots, Rhymes and Rage” arrived, with no apparent critical component, at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. An array of fashion images, videos and artifacts associated with stars like the Notorious B.I.G., Missy Elliott and Tupac Shakur, it was assumed to be a welcoming (if patronizing) gesture to the museum’s local African-American audience. Yet its appearance coincided with the general massive marketing of hip-hop culture to middle-class whites, a phenomenon that Mr. Pruitt and Mr. Early had been pointing to.

Were Pruitt-Early postblack artists ahead of their time, offering a new take on race, as a movable feast that collided with older, essentialist attitudes? If so, they would probably find plenty of company now in artists who stake out terrain both black and postblack, white and postwhite.

Mr. Pope.L (he who crawled up Broadway) does so with a posture of radical outsiderness that cancels bogus notions of racial or cultural essence. Basically he short-circuits the very concept of what an artist, black or white, “should” be. He smiles as he inches up the street on all fours; he uncomplainingly devours news of money he’ll never have. He paints murals with peanut butter and makes sculpture from Pop-Tarts, the stuff of welfare meals. In many ways his main subject would seem to be class, not race. Yet race is everywhere in his art.

He works with mostly white materials — mayonnaise, milk, flour — but he also runs the Black Factory, a mobile workshop-van equipped to transform any object, no matter what color, into a “black” object. How? By covering it with cheap black paint.

For a retrospective at the Maine College of Art in Portland in 2003, Mr. Pope.L presented a performance piece with the optimistic title “eRacism,” but that was entirely about race-based conflict. In a photograph in the show’s catalog, he has the word written in white on his bare black chest. Were he pale-skinned, it might have been all but invisible.

Whereas Mr. Pope.L has shaped himself into a distinctive racial presence, certain other artists of color are literally built from scratch. A Miami artists collective called BLCK, in the current Whitney Biennial, doesn’t really exist. The archival materials attributed to it documenting African American life in the 1960s is actually the creation of single artist: Adler Guerrier, who was born in Haiti in 1975.

Projects by Edgar Arceneaux, who is also in the biennial, have included imaginary visual jam sessions with the jazz visionary Sun Ra and the late Conceptual artist Sol Lewitt. Earlier in this art season, a white artist, Joe Scanlan, had a solo gallery show using the fictional persona of a black artist, Donelle Woolford. Ms. Woolford was awarded at least one appreciative review, suggesting that, in art at least, race can be independent of DNA.

The topic of race and blood has always been an inflammatory one in this country. Ms. Piper broached it in a 1988 video installation and delivered some bad news. Facing us through the camera, speaking with the soothing composure of a social worker or grief counselor, she said that, according to statistics, if we were white Americans, chances were very high that we carried at least some black blood. That was the legacy of slavery. She knew we would be upset. She was sorry. But was the truth. The piece was titled “Cornered.”

And are we upset? I’ll speak for myself; it’s not a question. Of course not. Which is a good thing, because the concept of race in America — the fraught fictions of whiteness and blackness— is not going away soon. It is still deep in our system. Whether it is or isn’t in our blood, it’s in our laws, our behavior, our institutions, our sensibilities, our dreams.

It’s also in our art, which, at its contrarian and ambiguous best, is always on the job, probing, resisting, questioning and traveling miles ahead down the road.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

ok can i just say, e. badu "carries" fools like tavis smiley and they don't even know it.

goodness,
read on!

Erykah Badu
original airdate April 25, 2005

Erykah Badu has been called an uncompromising, brilliant artist. Growing up on '60s and '70s R&B, the Texas native wrote her first song at age 7. Her '97 debut CD, Baduizm, went platinum and won multiple awards. After some time out of the spotlight, Badu returned in '03 with Worldwide Underground. She's established a growing film career, with turns in Cider House Rules and House of D. Badu maintains strong ties to Dallas, TX with her nonprofit group B.L.I.N.D. (Beautiful Love Incorporated Non Profit Development).





TOPICS Music





Erykah Badu
Tavis: Erykah Badu is a four-time Grammy winner who burst onto the music scene back in 1997 with her terrific debut CD 'Baduizm.' Critics have praised her music for its unique combination of R&B, soul, jazz, and funk, but she's also a talented actress who won acclaim for a role you might recall in the Oscar-winning film 'The Cider House Rules.' Her latest movie is the David Duchovny-directed 'House of D.' The film is in theaters around the country even as we speak. Here now, a scene from 'House of D.'

Lady: And if you can walk, you can slow dance. Show me.

Tommy: No. Not out here in public.

Lady: I don't see no public.

Tommy: Well, come on. There's no music.

Lady: Imagine some music. You see that pole over there? That pole? Yes, that pole. Look at the pole. Walk toward the pole. You want this pole. No. Don't start your hands down at the ass. Work your way down.

Tavis: 'Look at the pole. Walk toward the pole. You want this pole.'

Erykah Badu: Right. You want the pole.

Tavis: You want this pole. Erykah Badu, nice to see you.

Badu: You, too.

Tavis: When David Duchovny was on this program a few weeks ago, he told me a funny story when the two of you were talking about the role for 'House of D.' He said you came in with a huge Afro. He was saying to you at the end of the conversation, 'Erykah, I like the look. If you could just keep that Afro until we shoot the movie, that'd be perfect, 'cause it fits perfectly for the role.'

Badu: Or he could keep it. Make sure it doesn't change.

Tavis: Make sure it doesn't change. He didn't know it wasn't real to begin with.

Badu: Uh-uh.

Tavis: Yeah. How do you decide what you're gonna do with your hair on a daily basis? All right? You got that, Jonathan?

Badu: How do I decide?

Tavis: How do you decide on a daily basis how you gonna rock this thing?

Badu: I don't give it a lot of thought, you know. It just--

Tavis: Are you trying to tell me there's no thought put into this?

Badu: No. It's just functional art, you know. It's just saying, well, you give thought to the tie.

Tavis: But I actually plan this stuff, though. I try to match the colors.

Badu: Did you lay it out on the bed... ...last night?

Tavis: You know what? Something like that. It wasn't last night. But this morning, yeah. I get up, try to match the color with the-- And you just do your thing.

Badu: Yeah.

Tavis: I like that, though. Functional art.

Badu: That's right.

Tavis: How much--on a serious note--how much of your hairstyle is part of your whole aesthetic, part of your image? How much does it play in, do you think? 'Cause everybody talks about it all the time.

Badu: I think the people would tell me that more than I can tell me that. Because I just come as me, which is a part of, you know, the art. So I think maybe it plays a big part, because it's a little to the left sometime, and eclectic, you know. I think it's maybe fascinating to some people. But you know...

Tavis: Yeah.

Badu: I don't know. You tell me.

Tavis: Well, I ain't got a problem with it. It's fasc--It's a very good question. I'll answer it if you want me to answer it seriously. It's fascinating to me, because whenever I hear Erykah Badu is about to make an appearance, I immediately know that I want to tune in, to see what she's gonna look like. So it works. If there's any-- I mean, creatively, if there's any thought that goes behind, 'Let's my look to get people to pay attention,' then, if that was part of the plan, it works. Every time I hear you've come into-- When you came on the set today, I'm like, 'I can't wait to see her walk on, just to see what her hair is gonna be like.' So it works. But enough about your hair. Let's talk about your work. You are, you know, I assume-- I could be wrong--pretty picky and choosy about the roles you play.

Badu: Mm-hmm.

Tavis: Just as you are about the kind of music that you play. You don't put no stuff together. You work through this. Tell me how you go about deciding what roles you want to play and how you're actually navigating your career through this acting thing.

Badu: I guess first it has to be, um... To me, I like period pieces, not in this moment now.

Tavis: What attracts you to period pieces? Why do you like those?

Badu: I don't know. I can't say exactly what it is, because I've only had three roles in film. But I think it's probably the imagination of it, you know. It gives you an opportunity to be creative and pretend. And that's what acting is. If I could be from another era and another place, you know, it's a...

Tavis: Is there a particular era that you'd like to be transported to, if could you play characters... Is there a particular time you really enjoy?

Badu: Maybe from the 20s to the 50s.

Tavis: Right.

Badu: That whole...

Tavis: What about that period do you find fascinating?

Badu: The look.

Tavis: The look.

Badu: The issues.

Tavis: Mm-hmm.

Badu: The music.

Tavis: Mm-hmm. Yeah. On this particular role, 'House of D,' for those who've not seen it and didn't see our conversation with David Duchovny, tell us about the character you play in this movie.

Badu: The character I play, her name is Lady. She is a woman in a tower, which is actually a house of detention in New York. It's based on a real, from what I understand, a real house of detention that was located in the East Village. Lady happens to see the main character Tommy, the teenage boy, burying some money in the ground. Every day the women scream out of the window at people that they see on the ground. So she happens to strike up a conversation with him, and they become friends. And she becomes one of his best friends, along with a retarded Greek janitor, Robin Williams, at the high school where he goes to-- at the junior high where he goes to. So I guess her main role was, I guess, to play an angel, just as Robin Williams. You never know where they will be or who they are. So it's a film about, I guess, prejudice in a way. Yeah.

Tavis: It's also a film about, as I interpreted it-- It is about that. But it's also a film, as I interpreted it, about people who have an impact on your life.

Badu: That's right.

Tavis: That's why you mentioned those angels, people that really impact. I suspect there are people in your life who have impacted you significantly.

Badu: Sure. Sure.

Tavis: Let's talk about some of them. Your mama, I assume?

Badu: My mother. I have five mothers.

Tavis: Five of them. Let's walk through them.

Badu: Let's walk.

Tavis: Let's walk. You start. Number one.

Badu: My mother.

Tavis: Your maternal mother.

Badu: Colleen Queenie Wright. She was a young mother, had me at age 20, so she was still very much energetic and fun, and we slept with her and woke up with her and went to the park with her. She gave me the sense of humor that I have.

Tavis: I said maternal, I meant biological. That's your biological mother.

Badu: That's right.

Tavis: All right, second one.

Badu: The second one is my grandmother, my maternal grandmother. Her name is Thelma Gibson. Thelma Lois Gibson. We called her Thelma Lois. She gave me my sense of dignity. 'Close your legs. Put that down. When you get in the store, you don't want nothing. Don't ask for nothing. Don't do that.' And 'Get off the phone, let that boy call you.' You know. Those kinds of things. The manners and the sense of dignity, pretty much, morality. My third one, come on.

Tavis: You got biological mother, maternal mother.

Badu: 'Cause I need your fingers.

Tavis: Biological mother, maternal grandmother. Number three?

Badu: Number three would be my paternal.

Tavis: Paternal grandmother.

Badu: That would be my father's mother. Her name is Viola Mattie Wilson. We call her Ganny.

Tavis: Ganny.

Badu: Ganny.

Tavis: I love black folk and the names we give our grandparents. Talk to me about Ganny.

Badu: Well, Ganny gave me my sense of religion or spirituality. Ganny was a tambourine-totin', Bible-shakin' grandmother who...

Tavis: Not the tambourine-totin'-- I used to love-- I used to tear that tambourine up in my Pentecostal church where I grew up.

Badu: Did you?

Tavis: I loved playin' tambourine.

Badu: I can't imagine that.

Tavis: Absolutely. Played every Sunday. And was choir director, too.

Badu: Do we have a tambourine on the set?

Tavis: No, there ain't no tambourine, 'cause I would wear that thing out if they had one.

Badu: I don't believe that.

Tavis: Next time I see you in concert, call me onstage. I'll work it out for you.

Badu: I don't believe you.

Tavis: I can work a tambourine out.

Badu: OK, I wanna see that.

Tavis: OK, I'll do that for you.

Badu: That is my favorite instrument.

Tavis: Tambourine is? I didn't know that. You played one, too, in church?

Badu: Not in church, but around the house.

Tavis: Around the house. Yeah, OK. So biological mother, maternal grandmother, paternal grandmother--Ganny.

Badu: What Ganny gave me was a sense of spirituality. I remember she bought a piano, and I played my first song-- I wrote my first song at age 7. It went 'Baby, baby, there you are...' She came into room and said, 'What are you doing? You can't sing about that. You don't know about no baby, baby.' So she took me in the back room, so at the end of the day, the song was 'Jesus, Jesus...'

Tavis: Yeah.

Badu: So she gave me that sense of, if you're gonna sing something, it needs to mean something. It has to be about something.

Tavis: I'm laughing about that, because to this day, you know, there are still folk who do that. I mean, gospel artists who would take a secular song and switch it in a minute and have a hit with it. All right, so that's paternal grandmother. Number four.

Badu: My godmother. Her name is Gwendolyn Hargrove. She's from New Orleans, Louisiana. She was my mother's best friend. I was christened in St. Paul United Methodist Church. She became my godmother. And every summer she would take me with her to the park where she worked at a recreation center. She was the director of one-act plays. She put me in my first play, gave me the sense of the stage and performing and don't turn your back to the audience. And this is what you do, and give me more. You can do it. My first role was a character called Alligator, in 'Really Rosie.' So I tore Alligator up. And my godmother was very much responsible for me understanding and appreciating theater, and I went on to become a theater major in college.

Tavis: Wow.

Badu: As a result.

Tavis: And last but not least.

Badu: Mother Nature. That's, um, that first boyfriend that broke your heart. That's, um, your period. That's the pains from different things that give you the sense of being alive, because before that, you kind of floating through space. But once you get the first pain in your heart, then Mother Nature gives you, you're pretty much alive and aware. It's kind of like taking the red pill. Yeah., coming out of the Matrix.

Tavis: I can't imagine, since you have been influenced by so many mothers, since you are a mother, you got these maternal instincts all through you. What do you like most about being a mother now?

Badu: Having the opportunity and responsibility to be the first person to mold a person's mind.

Tavis: It's an awesome responsibility, though, isn't it?

Badu: It's an awesome responsibility. It's a big one. And it's also a gift, because at the same time in the process, I have the opportunity to re-create my own mind, you know, and create more possibilities for myself. And not limit myself at all, as I grow a child.

Tavis: Let me ask a crazy question. This may be way too personal. If it is, slap me, and I'll back up off of it.

Badu: OK.

Tavis: As a mother, since you get a chance to create other possibilities--I'm not a parent yet. Are there things about your own children that you want to help shape and mold not just differently but better than what you...

Badu: Sure.

Tavis: ...have?

Badu: I think every parent does.

Tavis: Yeah.

Badu: You know, every parent blames their parents in some kind of way for their failings, you know, as we all know. So I want to be a parent that can be ready for all of those things, and to understand my child as he and she grow.

Tavis: Talking to you is always fascinating. I could do it for hours. I can't let you go, though, without asking about the music. What you're working on, what's next on the music front?

Badu: I'm working on my album right now--new album. As you know, 'Worldwide Underground' was an EP, which was a buffer between albums, which was a writing in the process. So I gave the audience a chance to see my process.

Tavis: What you're working on.

Badu: Right. This is kinda what we're doing right now. I had to get those things out. The next album--I mean, I'm really excited about it. I'm giddy about it, I'm in love with it, you know. It's brand-new right now to me.

Tavis: Well, if you love it and it's like all the rest of your stuff, I'm sure we will love it as well. I love you, and I love your book, and I'm glad you came on.

Badu: Well before we go, let's go back for a minute. I remember, you had a whole show about "call Tyrone." What was that about?

Tavis: I had a show on "call Tyrone?"

Badu: Yeah, you did.

Tavis: Oh, back-- You know what? You really took me back. This was back on B.E.T. Years ago.

Badu: Exactly. I just turned on the TV, and you had a panel of experts.

Tavis: See?

Badu: I think it was Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson.

Tavis: You see the influence you have?

Badu: Bob Marley. Everybody was on the stage. Talking about--I was male-bashing. I think you were saying, 'Yeah, that's a shame.' Come on. Come on.

Tavis: No, I'm glad you raised this. I do not recall every aspect of that show. What I do recall was that song I think like most artists, if you write a really good song it kicks up a national conversation about the lyrics. And I was just trying to explore the fascination that people have with this song. And as you know all across talk radio, people are addressing this issue of what this song 'Tyrone' meant. So I was fascinated to have the conversation.

Badu: It was funny. It was funny. I just --

Tavis: All right. You try to read me on my own show. Erykah Badu trying to front me.

Badu: On your own show.

Tavis: On my own show. I'm glad to have you on.

Badu: I'm glad to be here.

Tavis: 'House of D' is the film starring one Erykah Badu. Go check it out. That is our show tonight. A reminder: Starting this weekend can you catch me back on public radio, on PRI, Public Radio International. Check your local listings. See you back here next time on PBS. Until then, good night from L.A. Thanks for watching.

Badu: Before we go, I just want to say: Thank you. Very much.

Tavis: And keep the faith.

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