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Black Hope in the Hour of Chaos

A Letter From the Editor

Pryor portraying a preacher in Which Way Is Up

It seems that we are experiencing a shift.   Not only a paradigm shift in nature, the ecosystem and global climates, but there is a shift in collective thought.  Afrofuturism is much more than a cool cultural term, trendy African fashions, nappy headed hairstyles and a social media bandwagon to jump on.  Notice the wave.  D’Angelo’s Black Messiah released December 15th 2014.  Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly dropped shortly after in March, 2015.  2016 followed suit with albums such as Common’s Black America Again, The Healing Component by Mick Jenkins, Anderson.Paak and producer Knxwledge ‘s Yes Lawd!  De La Soul and ATCQ gave us long awaited surprise comebacks,  And The Anonymous Nobody and We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service. The list goes on and on, including Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book and Kendrick’s Untitled Unmastered, leading to 2017’s  DAMN by Lamar, Joey Bada$$’s All Amerikkkan  and Jay Z’s socio-political 4:44.  Not taking away from several other amazing hip hop albums and genres that have produced good music,  but there is an inherent theme here.  A spike of raised social consciousness tends to recycle itself in and out of the urbanized social and cultural ecosystem, not to mention a celebratory “back to Africa” movement that always tends to get hyped with rebellious ambition, then fade away from fatigue.

I recall in the 80’s and 90’s as LL Cool J admired the cars riding by with the boomin’ system, we also admired the Afrocentricity, the acknowledgement of assimilation, colonization and African culture being in prevalent in American entertainment and media.  In fact, we even pushed it. Forced it.  UTFO, Run DMC, Roxanne Shante, KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions, Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, Eric B & Rakim, Gangstarr, Cool DJ Red Alert, Big Daddy Kane, Marley Marl, The Juice Crew, MC Lyte, Stetsasonic, De La Soul, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Kwame, Salt-n-Pepa, Kid N Play and Queen Latifah.  That is exactly and precisely what hip hop was and still is.  Dashikis, African medallions, peace signs, dreadlocks and wild afros are all in trend, just as it was back in the 90’s, 80’s, 70’s, 60’s and generations before that.  There is always a sense of responsibility for our history and culture.  And it is always at a cost.

photo courtesy

In Somebody Scream! Rap Music’s Rise t0 Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power, author Marcus Reeves points out how Public Enemy was igniting a new movement in hip hop, becoming a genre of soundtracks for sociopolitical dynamics taking shape within America at that time. “Chuck D, as hip-hop’s new Bob Dylan, bestowed on rap the higher purpose of awakening the masses.  (Public Enemy’s mission, Chuck often said, was to create five thousand new black leaders for the black community.) As the crew soon discovered, for those suffering and desperate for a Moses to lead them, well, anywhere, a popular rap group might do.  Coincidentally, Nation of Millions accompanied an electrifying renaissance in black consciousness and leadership, voices answering black folks’ need for some kind of response to the aftermath of the decade long conservative backlash.”

George Clinton talks about “All the new energy reflected back on the old responsibilities”  in his new book, Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? (Atria Books)

Gil Scott-Heron also recounts this theme on multiple albums including Winter In America’s “Peace Go With You Brother” saying that the children are going to have to pay for our mistakes someday. From South Africa to South Carolina’s “Fell Together” lyrics inform the listener that “nothing is free and something will always make you pay.”

This in part explains our need and dependency for messiahs, saviors and heroes.  The other parts can be thoroughly explained in The Willie Lynch Letter, The Isis Papers, The Miseducation of a Negro, The Destruction of Black Civilization, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Behold a Pale Horse, and hundreds of other stimulating book titles that examine the plight, suffering and pathology of an African people, race and civilization.

When Obama became the 44th President of the United States, it was surreal.  I cried.  I was confused.  I was afraid.  I remember the pandemonium and excitement felt like a Hollywood movie, yet every minute was real and eventually became a part of our new DNA, history and culture.  It was a wave.  A wave exalted by mass exhalation and relief and a tingle of reparations enveloped everyone’s sensibilities.  Only Christ, Muhammad, or Buddha themselves could curb the enthusiasm felt that day.  Then the brother Obama was elected a second term.  “Thank you Lord and Savior!” was the general consensus. Amen and Ashe!  However, all things must eventually come to an end.

illustration courtesy

After the new President was elected,  I noticed that the U.S. Presidents all seem to correlate a unique socio-poly-economic events and evolution.  During Trump’s presidency, we represent a circus full of clowns, liars, espionage, racial bigotry and senseless killings.  All of the sewage from America’s corrupt and sinister past overflowed and flooded into the American public.  Now, let’s take it back to 1969 and Nixon.  Watergate scandal flooded the populous society during the height of Vietnam follies and the warfront at home.  Invasion of greed and manipulation of policy and power was heavy on the menu.  The Nixon regime reigned supreme until 1974 where Gerald Ford took over just to stop the leak.  Ford couldn’t wait to get out – then President Jimmy Carter took a chance.  Carter was a Democrat, but apparently didn’t have a clue how to fix the mess piled up by Nixon and neither did Ford.  The Bronx was burning, poverty was commonplace so Good Times was a ‘reality TV’ show, and everyone was self medicating and overdosing on sex, funk, disco, weed, LSD and mother Africa.

We weren’t just laughing at ourselves on the television, we were actually reaching for good times and recovery.  So, we utilized music as a vessel. Hip hop was a bastard of the Reagan era. By the time Ronald Reagan became the 40th President in 1981, The Sugarhill Gang and Chic had already made music history in 1979, with “Rapper’s Delight”.  Justifiable proof that even though we had a clown (who co-starred with a monkey) in the Oval Office and the economy was dire straights, the 1980’s was an explosion of rebellion, art, music, fashion and energy.  Yes, we did that. Despite the fact that Reagan played the classic shell game with Iran, Contras, guns and sanctioned crack cocaine “War On Drugs” in our American streets,  we created the most unique, viable, formidable, language breaking art and culture that still permeates the globe today.  Let’s not even discuss the Bush Presidency and all of the travesty that came along with that. Honestly, looking back, I would gladly take Nixon, Reagan or any Bush over Donald Trump.

When Trump ran for election the masses shrugged and mumbled “Oh no!” When Trump was elected as the United States 45th President and leader of the free world, the masses screamed “Oh Lawd!” in harmony like a national choir.  I once heard that it sometimes takes a fool to make people smart and that chaos produces the best art.  Well, if that is the case, this is going to be a culturally rich and artistic renaissance era that will be remembered in the scrolls of humanity.

The point is, it doesn’t matter.  We are resilient and resourceful, proud and strong.  Our power transcends any government institution, mandate, economic crisis or political snafu.  I agree with Nas and The Last Poets. We are like roaches.  We will always be here.  Forever and ever.  No matter what anti-agenda, biochemical poisoning, mental suppression or psychological tricknology we are survivors and the innovators of society.

We go to church for fellowship and spiritual worship.  For the same reasons we go to various mosques, temples, shrines and ancestral meeting places.  We follow and we flock. We are sheep trailing the herd.  We’re recidivistic by nature and we find ourselves repeatedly waiting to be found, rescued and healed.  All the while, struggling to remember that we have the power to heal ourselves.  We all make choices that lead us astray and packing for a journey towards the unknown.  It’s scary, true, but we need to allow ourselves the freedom to be afraid, so that we can develop the courage and strength to move forward.  We get lost and we get found.  It’s Africa. It’s Africa in us all.  Often it takes a large scale movement like Civil Rights, Black Power,  the Obama presidency, the senseless murder and killing of innocent people, Luke Cage breaking Netflix records and worldwide pandemonium of black comic book heroes to shake up the muscle memory within us.  Unity and family is our biggest weapon that remains widely unrealized.   King T’Challa and the record breaking Black Panther are fantasized interpretations of that exact elevation in consciousness that we need.  The beauty of Black Panther is that it activates a sense of sole-purpose and responsibility as well as stimulate a sense of community and global obligation for humanity.  Even the mighty T’Challa had to correct his thinking when he makes the defensive comment “I am king of Wakanda, not a king of all people.”

In this release of TAoN, we’re introducing a different form of fellowship, more like a gospel tool-kit.  Let’s go to church with Chris Dave and The Drumhedz, Stono Echo and Tony Allen.  Everyone has their own spiritual beliefs, but this is a special time and a call for oneness.  Let’s use this current energy flow to lift off and vibrate to a higher frequency of love and respect.

The planetary vibration and anticipation of Black Panther is not rare or strange.  It is only about time and a matter of time.  The first shall be last and the last shall be first.  We’ve always had the magic of Wakanda, the science and the ancient technological capabilities to build empires and worlds of wonder. We don’t need blockbusters like Marvel’s Black Panther to save us, but we do need phenomenons like Black Panther to remind us that we have permission and authority to save ourselves.

image of abandoned church pulpit from “Bynum Cutler” – courtesy Bradford Young

Still, the question remains.  Who will pay reparations on our souls?



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