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Spoken Word Tags: origins music spoken word life production new quality entertainment

Spoken word is an oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of word play and intonation and voice inflection. It is a 'catchall' that includes any kind of poetry recited aloud, including hip-hop, jazz poetry, poetry slams, traditional poetry readings and can include comedy routines and 'prose monologues'.

The art of spoken word has existed for many millennia. Long before writing but through a cycle of reciting, listening and memorizing each language drew on its resources of sound structure for aural patterns that made spoken poetry very different from ordinary discourse and easier to commit to memory.

'There were poets long before there were printing presses, poetry is primarily oral utterance, to be said aloud, to be heard. Poetry, like music, appeals to the ear, an effect known as euphony or onomatopoeia, a device to represent a thing or action by a word that imitates sound. 'Speak again, Speak like rain' was how Kikuyu East African tribesmen described her verse to author Isak Dinesen, confirming Eliot's comment that 'poetry remains one person talking to another.

The oral tradition is one that is conveyed primarily by speech as opposed to writing, in predominantly oral cultures proverbs (also known as maxims) are convenient vehicles for conveying simple beliefs and cultural attitudes. 'The hearing knowledge we bring to a line of poetry is knowledge of a pattern of speech we have known since we were infants'

Performance poetry, which is kindred to performance art, is explicitly written to be performed aloud and consciously shuns the written form. 'Form', as Donald Hall records 'was never more than an extension of content.' In the African traditions, it included drumming, and the use of the 'talking drum'.

In ancient Greece, the spoken word was the most trusted repository for the best of their thought, and inducements would be offered to men (such as the rhapsodes) who set themselves the task of developing minds capable of retaining and voices capable of communicating the treasures of their culture. The Ancient Greeks included Greek lyric, which is similar to spoken-word poetry, in their Olympic Games.

The most notable U.S. exponent of oral poetry, Vachel Lindsay, helped to keep alive the appreciation of poetry as a spoken art in the early twentieth century. Robert Frost also spoke well, his metre accommodating his natural sentences. Poet laureate, Robert Pinsky, also an advocate, considered 'Poetry's proper culmination is to be read aloud by someone's voice; whoever reads a poem aloud becomes the proper medium for the poem. Every speaker intuitively courses through manipulation of sounds; it is almost as though 'we sing to one another all day'. Sound once imagined through the eye gradually gave body to poems through performance, and late in the 1950's reading aloud erupted in the United States'.

Some American spoken-word poetry originated from the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, blues music, as well as the 1960s Beat Generation. Spoken word in African American culture drew on a rich literary and musical heritage. Langston Hughes and writers of the Harlem Renaissance were inspired by the feelings of the blues and spirituals; hip-hop and slam poetry artists were inspired by poets such as Hughes in their word styling.

The Civil Rights Movement also had an impact on spoken word. Notable speeches such as Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream," Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" and Booker T. Washington's "Cast Down Your Buckets" incorporated elements of oration that influenced the spoken word movement within the African American community. The Last Poets was a poetry and political music group formed during the 1960s that was born out of the Civil Rights movement, and helped increase the popularity of spoken word within African American culture.

Spoken word poetry entered into wider American culture following the release of Gil Scott-Heron's spoken-word poem The Revolution Will Not Be Televised on the album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox in 1970. The Nuyorican Poets Café on New York's Lower Eastside was founded in 1973, and is one of the oldest American venues for presenting spoken-word poetry.

In the 1980s, competitive spoken word poetry competitions emerged, labelled 'poetry slams.' American poet Marc Smith is credited with starting the poetry slam in November 1984. In 1990, the first National Poetry Slam took place in Fort Mason, San Francisco.

The poetry slam movement reached a wider audience following Russell Simmons' Def Poetry, which was aired on HBO between 2002 and 2007.

Outside of the United States, artists such as French singer-songwriters Léo Ferré or Serge Gainsbourg, made a personal use of spoken word over rock or symphonic music from the beginning of the 1970s, in such albums as Amour Anarchie (1970), Histoire de Melody Nelson (1971) or Il n'y a plus rien (1973), and contributed to the popularization of spoken word within French culture.

In the UK, spoken word has been utilised by musicians such as Blur, The Streets and Kate Tempest.

In the Philippines, the art of spoken word has been popularized by the hit romantic comedy series On the Wings of Love (TV series), with one of the supporting characters, Rico (played by Juan Miguel Severo) being a spoken word poet.

In Zimbabwe the art of spoken word has been mostly active on stage through the House of hunger Poetry slam in Harare , Mlomo Wakho Poetry Slam in Bulawayo as well as the Charles Austin theatre in Masvingo . Festivals such as Harare International Festival of the Arts, Intwa Arts Festival KoBulawayo and Shoko Festival have supported the genre for a number of years. Artists such as Chirikure Chirikure , Biko Mutsaurwa (Godobori) , Cynthia Marangwanda (Flowchyld) , Arnold Chirimika (SoProfound) , T Tongai Lesly Makawa (Outspoken) Tendekai P Tati (Madzitatiguru), Philani Amadeus Nyoni , Tswarelo Mothobi (A scribe called Tswa) Samm Farai Monro (Comrade Fatso) and Batsirai Easther Chigama have been active on the Zimbabwean Spoken word scene.

Spoken-word poetry is often performed in a competitive setting. Also known as slam poetry, these competitions began in 1986 when Marc Smith started a poetry slam in Chicago.

In 1990, the first National Poetry Slam was held in San Francisco. It is the largest poetry slam competition event in the world, now held each year in different cities across the United States.

The popularity of slam poetry has resulted in slam poetry competitions being held across the world.

Source: Wikipedia

A Moment in History - Olaudah Equiano
Category: Black Men Rock!
Tags: olaudah equiano biography black

Olaudah Equiano (1745 – 1797) was an 18th century African writer and anti-slavery campaigner. From an early age, Olaudah Equiano experienced the horrors of slavery first hand. But, after gaining his freedom, he gained British citizenship and wrote about his experiences. His autobiography ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano‘ played a pivotal role in turning public opinion in Britain against slavery. His accounts of slavery and its human suffering were a factor in the enactment of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

Early life and experience as slave

Equiano writes that he was born in Nigeria in the year 1745 – a member of the Igbo tribe. Aged 11, he was kidnapped, along with sisters, by native slave-holders; after being sold to European slave traders, he was then packed into a slave ship and transferred across the Atlantic to Barbados. Equiano eventually ended up the British colony of Virginia. As a slave he was given different names, including Gustavus Vassa.

Equiano later wrote about the mistreatment of slaves on the Virginia plantations. His vivid descriptions of the various punishments and humiliations that slaves had to endure were the first published account of an autobiography of a slave. Speaking of the Virginia overseers.

These overseers are indeed for the most part persons of the worst character of any denomination of men in the West Indies. Unfortunately, many humane gentlemen, by not residing on their estates, are obliged to leave the management of them in the hands of these human butchers, who cut and mangle the slaves in a shocking manner on the most trifling occasions, and altogether treat them in every respect like brutes. – p.105 ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano‘

Equiano wrote that he was so shocked by his experience that he tried to wash the colour out of his face in an attempt to escape his position as a slave.

Equiano was bought by Michael Pascal a sailor in the Royal Navy; therefore Equiano was taught the art of seamanship and had to follow his master into battle during Britain’s Seven Years War with France. Equiano served during battles bringing gunpowder into position.

Equiano gained a certain respect from his master and after travelling extensively, he was sent to England where he gained a basic education. Pascal later wrote that Equiano was ‘a very deserving boy’. During this time, in 1759, he also converted to Christianity. His Christian beliefs were increasingly important in his life. He used the Christian message of the Golden Rule ‘do unto others, as you would have done to you’ as a way to shape attitudes on slavery. However, he was still denied the freedom that Pascal had once promised. Instead, he was sold on to Captain James Doran in the Caribbean and then onto Robert King, a Quaker merchant from Philadelphia.

A Free man

Doran furthered the education of Equiano and taught Equiano to assist him in trading. In his early 20s, Doran helped Equiano to purchase his freedom. Writing of the moment he gained his freedom, Equaiano wrote:

Accordingly he signed the manumission that day; so that, before night, I who had been a slave in the morning, trembling at the will of another, was became [sic] my own master, and completely free. I thought this was the happiest day I had ever experienced… p.177

Initially he stayed in America to assist Doran as a business partner. But, shortly after buying his freedom, slaveholders attempted to kidnapp Equaino and return him to slavery. He only escaped by being able to prove his education. Equiano later pointed out the position of free slaves was little better than slaves because of the dreadful treatment, black men received.

Hitherto I had thought only slavery dreadful; but the state of a free negro appeared to me now equally so at least, and in some respects even worse, for they live in constant alarm for their liberty; and even this is but nominal, for they are universally insulted and plundered without the possibility of redress; for such is the equity of the West Indian laws, that no free negro’s evidence will be admitted in their courts of justice. p.122

Feeling unsafe in the Caribbean, he returned to Britain.

Anti – Slavery movement

Back in England, he was befriended by many who supported the abolition of the slave trade. Many abolitionists were Quakers, but in the late Eighteenth Century, the movement was spreading to other denominations. Equiano was able to give first hand testament about life as a slave. This information was useful for those who were hoping to change the law and outlaw slavery. His friends encouraged him to write down a book about his experiences. First published in 1789, the account was eagerly received by many people in Britain. It sold well, and went through many editions. Many people who read about the suffering of slaves were more inclined to support the abolitionist cause. The book received good reviews, and many were surprised and moved at the quality of writing and his ability to depict life as a slave.

The book made Equiano a prominent figure in literary circles. In 1788, Equiano was able to personally petition the king for the end of slavery. The book also helped to demystify many of the current misconceptions about African people – this personal account and personality of Equiano was very influential in displaying the obvious humanity of black Africans.

The revenue from book sales enabled Equiano to live independently of philanthropic backers and he could devote more time to campaigning against slavery. He also served as a leader for the poor black community of London. These were often freed slaves and descendants, but struggled to survive economically. Equiano also campaigned for the extension of the vote to working men. He was an active member of the Corresponding Society. He also supported the London Missionary society – a Christian organization committed to spreading education and Christianity overseas.

In 1792, Equiano married Susan Cullen, a local girl from Soham in Cambridgeshire. They had two daughters. He died in 1797 in London.

Legacy of Equiano

Although there is some controversy about the exact birth place of Equiano – some historians believe he may have been born in North America rather than Africa, there is no doubt that Equiano played a pivotal figure in the anti-slavery movement. His writing and speeches helped show people that there was a strong sense of shared humanity. He made a passionate appeal to the higher ideals of British lawmakers – hoping this would affect change.

I hope to have the satisfaction of seeing the renovation of liberty and justice resting on the British government, to vindicate the honour of our common nature.

After reading about the suffering of fellow humans, there was a growing support for the abolitionist cause. Equiano’s biography became an important instrument of abolitionist propaganda.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. (G+) “Olaudah Equiano Biography”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net, 11/08/2013 Biography Online

Review: ‘Roots’ for a Black Lives Matter Era Tags: roots black lives matter era word life production new quality entertainment

The original mini-series “Roots” was about history, and it was history itself. Airing on ABC in January 1977, this generational saga of slavery was a kind of answer song to the 1976 Bicentennial celebration of the (white, often slave-owning) founding fathers. It reopened the books and wrote slaves and their descendants into the national narrative.

But as an event, it was also a chapter in that story. It shaped and was shaped by the racial consciousness of its era. It was a prime-time national reckoning for more than 100 million viewers. As a television drama, it was excellent. But as a television broadcast, it was epochal.

The four-night, eight-hour remake of “Roots,” beginning Memorial Day on History, A&E and Lifetime, is largely the same story, compressed in some places and expanded in others, with a lavish production and strong performances. It is every bit as worthy of attention and conversation. But it is also landing, inevitably, in a very different time.

Viewers who watched “Roots” four decades ago have since lived with racial narratives of moving forward and stepping back. They’ve seen America’s first black president elected and a presidential candidate hesitate to disavow the Ku Klux Klan.

So in timing and spirit, this is a Black Lives Matter “Roots,” optimistic in focusing on its characters’ strength, sober in recognizing that we may never stop needing reminders of whose lives matter.

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The first new episode, much of it shot in South Africa, looks stunning, another sign of the cultural times. Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby, in the role made famous by LeVar Burton) is now not a humble villager but the scion of an important clan, and his home — Juffure, in Gambia — a prosperous settlement. Kunta is captured by a rival family and sold into slavery to a Virginian (James Purefoy), by way of a harrowing Middle Passage.

Mr. Kirby’s Kunta is a more regal and immediately defiant character than Mr. Burton’s. But his tragedy is the same: He rebels but fails and is beaten into accepting his slave name, Toby. The name — the loss of identity — is as much a weapon as the whip. As the overseer who beats him puts it: “You can’t buy a slave. You have to make a slave.”

Kunta stops running, but he preserves his traditions, including the practice of presenting a newborn baby to the night sky with the words, “Behold, the only thing that is greater than you.”

That theme of belonging to something larger, of the ancestral family as a character in itself, is essential to “Roots.” Although Alex Haley fictionalized the events of his novel on which the mini-series is based, his story offered black Americans what slavery was machine-tooled to erase: places, dates, names, memories. And that focus keeps the ugliness — the racial slurs, the gruesome violence — from rendering this series without hope. A person may live and die in this system, but a people can survive it.

Still, the individual stories remain heartbreaking, even in small moments, as when the slave musician Fiddler (a soulful Forest Whitaker) recognizes a Mandinka tune he overhears Kunta singing. He’s moved — and, it seems, a little frightened by what the recognition stirs in him. As much as he’s worked to efface his heritage as a survival strategy, it lingers, a few notes haunting the outskirts of his memory.

Kunta’s daughter, Kizzy (E’myri Lee Crutchfield as a child, Anika Noni Rose as an adult), is teased with the possibility of a better life; she grows up friends with the master’s daughter and learns to read. But she’s sold to Tom Lea (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a struggling farmer who rapes and impregnates her. Rape — there are several assaults in this series — is another weapon against identity, another way you make a slave. Ms. Rose burns with Kizzy’s determination to hang on to her sense of self.

Kizzy and Tom Lea’s son, Chicken George (Regé-Jean Page, walking nimbly in Ben Vereen’s footsteps) makes his name raising fighting cocks for his master-father. The series has lighter moments, especially with the charismatic George, but those can quickly turn dark at an owner’s whim. Childhood friends grow up; promises get broken; there are no good masters.

At eight hours over four nights, each with a separate director, this “Roots” is about a third shorter than the original. It focuses less on white characters — gone is Ed Asner’s conscience-stricken slave-ship captain, a sop to white viewers — though there are insights about how class resentment feeds bigotry.

You feel the story’s compression most in the second half, especially the melodramatic, rushed final episode, which works in both the story of George’s son Tom (Sedale Threatt Jr.) — named, under duress, for his slave-master grandfather — and George’s service in the Civil War. This mini-series ends emotionally, but it emphasizes that there is no permanent happily-ever-after: “Every day,” the younger Tom says, “always going to be someone wants to take away your freedom.”

Overall, the remake, whose producers include Mr. Burton and Mark M. Wolper (whose father, David L. Wolper, produced the original “Roots”), ably polishes the story for a new audience that might find the old production dated and slow. What it can’t do, because nothing can now, is command that audience.

As homogeneous as the old-school, three-network TV system could be, as many faces as it left out, “Roots” was an example of what it could do at its best. I watched it when I was 8 years old because it was all anyone was talking about, including the kids in my mostly white small-town school. A generation of viewers — whatever we looked like, wherever we came from, wherever we ended up — carried the memory of Kunta having his name beaten out of him.

Viewers will have to seek out this “Roots,” like every program now. Today’s universe of channels and streaming outlets presents a much wider range of identity and experience. But we see it in smaller groups and take away different memories.

That’s not the fault of “Roots,” of course; it’s simply our media world. The legacy of representation now lives in a constellation of programs, among them dramas like “Underground,” which imagines its slave-escape story as an action thriller; comedies like “black-ish” and “The Carmichael Show,” with their complex ideas of black identity; and this “Roots,” still a necessary story, but now one story among many.

A version of this review appears in print on May 30, 2016, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: An Epochal Saga of Slavery, Remade for a Different Time. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe

Source: New York Times

This week's celebrity pick is Jurnee Smollett-Bell
Category: Celebrity Pick
Tags: jurnee smollett bell celebrity pick word life production new quality entertainment

Jurnee Diana Smollett-Bell (born October 1, 1986) is an American actress. She began her career as a child actress appearing on television sitcoms, with her most significant regular role being on On Our Own (1994–95). She received critical acclaim and Critic's Choice Award for playing title role in the 1997 independent drama film Eve's Bayou.

In adult age, Smollett-Bell has starred in films The Great Debaters (2007) and Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (2013). She also had starring roles on number of television series, include NBC sports drama Friday Night Lights (2009-2011), and HBO vampire drama True Blood (2013-2014). In 2016, Smollett-Bell began playing a leading role as Rosalee, the house slave, in the WGN America period drama, Underground. Smollett-Bell has won three NAACP Image Awards.

Smollett-Bell was born Jurnee Diana Smollett in New York City, the daughter of Janet and Joel Smollett. Her father was Jewish (his family immigrated from Russia and Poland), and her mother is African American. She is the fourth of six performing siblings, one sister, Jazz, and four brothers: Jussie, JoJo, Jake, and Jocqui.

Smollett-Bell began her acting career appearing in a recurring roles on the ABC family sitcoms include Full House and Hangin' with Mr. Cooper playing Denise Frazer. From 1994 to 1995, she co-starred with her siblings in the short-lived ABC sitcom On Our Own. In 1996, she appeared in the Francis Ford Coppola film Jack, making her big screen debut.

Smollett-Bell received critical acclaim for her performance as 10-year-old Eve in the 1997 independent film Eve's Bayou opposite Lynn Whitfield, Samuel L. Jackson and Debbi Morgan. In casting the role, writer-director Kasi Lemmons envisioned "a light-skinned black child who could convey the nuances of a Creole child in the 60s.” She received the Critic's Choice Award and was nominated for the NAACP Image Award. The following year, she joined the cast of CBS sitcom Cosby, for which she won two NAACP Image Awards. In 1999, Smollett-Bell starred in the racially charged Disney channel film Selma, Lord, Selma. In 2000, she co-starred with Sharon Stone and Billy Connolly in the film Beautiful Joe. In 2001, she played the daughter of Angela Bassett in the television film Ruby's Bucket of Blood. In 2005, she co-starred with Bow Wow and Brandon T. Jackson in the roller skating film Roll Bounce. In 2006, she appeared in the drama film Gridiron Gang.

In 2007, Smollett-Bell portrayed Samantha Booke (loosely based on Henrietta Bell Wells), the sole female debater at Wiley College in the historical film The Great Debaters. The film was produced by Oprah Winfrey and Harvey Weinstein and starred Denzel Washington, who also directed the feature. For her performance, Smollett-Bel received NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture. The following year, she returned to television, appearing in two episodes of ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy. From 2009 to 2011, she was regular cast member in the DirecTV drama series Friday Night Lights playing Jess Merriweather. From 2010 to 2011, she also co-starred with Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell on the short-lived CBS legal drama The Defenders. From 2013 to 2014, she was regular on HBO series True Blood.

In 2013, Smollett-Bell played the leading role in the drama film Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor directed by Tyler Perry. The film received negative reviews from critics, but was box-office hit grossing $53,125,354. It is the highest-grossing Tyler Perry film which the writer-director did not star in and the highest-grossing Tyler Perry drama. She later played Juanita Leonard, the wife of boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, in the 2016 biographical sport film Hands of Stone co-starring with Usher and Robert De Niro.

In 2015, Smollett-Bell was cast as lead character in the WGN America period drama series Underground. Smollett-Bell plays Rosalee, a shy house slave, working on a plantation in 1857.

Smollett-Bell has been active in HIV/AIDS causes since she was 11. She spoke at the Ryan White Youth Conference. Her first encounter with the disease came at age seven when a crew member of On Our Own died of AIDS. Smollett-Bell is on the Board of Directors of Artists for a New South Africa, an organization dedicated to HIV/AIDS in Africa. She is also on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Defense Fund.

On October 24, 2010, she married musician Josiah Bell.

Source: Wikipedia

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