Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Huey P. Newton Reader

The Huey P. Newton Reader
Amazon: click here

"Hero worship and vilification, however, obscure more than they illuminate. For these often fanciful recollections, in spite of their divergent intentions, fail to help us understand that beneath the mythology lived an intrepid man with dreams, fears, and vulnerabilities - in short, an ordinary man whose extraordinary courage changed the world in ways we are still coming to terms with today."

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Half Has Never Been Told

The Half Has Never Been Told
Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism
by Edward E. Baptist

The Inception of Hip Hop Stacks

The Inception of Hip Hop Stacks

The beginning of Hip Hop Stacks started with friendship between two Hip Hop kids from different sides of the country that met in an English 535 Jazz Lyric course at New Mexico State University's Clara Belle Williams hall.  Our first day of class was everyone's first time meeting each other...myself (Lee), Jus, and Dr. Kathleene West who for introductions randomly paired up classmates to introduce each other. I got to introduce Justin and Justin got to introduce me. I found out he listened to Gang Starr and he found out my favorite song was They Reminisce Over You by Pete Rock & CL Smooth.  This would be the start of a best friendship and several other introductions for a whole bunch of ideas that would develop between us at New Mexico State University. 

One of those ideas was Hip Hop Stacks. We connected with then librarian of NMSU's Zuhl Library, Mardi Mahaffy and the Branson Library to assemble a collection of books and films about Hip Hop and music CDs. The inception of Hip Hop Stacks included an opening event and lecture to celebrate the collection, radio promo, a documentary film screening at the NMSU CMI Theatre of Inventos Hip Hop Cubano, and a couple of articles that were published about the event. Mardi was also super kind enough to clear some shelf space at the library for the Hip Hop Stacks collection that was purchased based off of our recommendations.

This flier is a look back at the beginning of Hip Hop Stacks and includes photographs of the shelf space at NMSU's Zuhl Library.  Its just a piece of the Hip Hop Stacks story which would continue to grow at NMSU and reach out to the El Paso Public Library system in west Texas.

For the event we put together a soundtrack. The first beat on there was by Damu the Fudgemunk titled ((What's Next)) listen.


Monday, October 31, 2016

The Birth of a Nation Bookmarks

The Birth of a Nation Bookmarks

This month my youngest brother and I went to watch Birth of a Nation, a film by Nate Parker about the story of Nat Turner.  I was familiar with Nat Turner's name but not so much his story, just references from music and a few clips of information I picked up from documentaries about America and slavery.  I was first introduced to Nate Parker's work when I went to see The Great Debaters movie.  Afterwards I wondered what that experience acting alongside Denzel Washington would mean to Parker's future as an actor.  I thought about this because of what I learned from actors like Ethan Hawke of Training Day and Derek Luke of Antwone Fisher who described the experience acting with Washington as an opportunity of a lifetime. I came up a big fan of Washington after one of my earliest theater experiences as a kid seeing Malcolm X with my little brother's godfather and his son.  In a lot of ways that experience would shape how I felt later about the social responsibility of cinema and recognizing its power to inspire and teach us something that would mean something to us later on.  Films like that also linked me to literature as a kid and books like the Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley.  At 12 years old I started reading this book which would take a few years for me to comprehend and finish reading.  It was because of the story I was introduced to at the movies that I kept at it.  It pushed me into a life of inquiry that would continue well beyond middle and high school and on into college and my years as an adult.    

The Great Debaters, like Spike Lee's Malcolm X was a powerful theater experience... emotionally charged and all that.  It hit deep for a number of reasons, especially since by 2007, I was thinking about education differently.  I was a year away from graduating with my master's degree and started to experience life as an educator. There was something about that connection between Parker's character in the film and Washington's character...student to teacher.  It took me back to films like Malcolm X made me think about timelines and what story cinema would tell next.  Since childhood I've always valued stories. Reading Walter Dean Myers, I could see everything Myers wrote as if I was watching a movie.  So to see Birth of a Nation manifest itself through Parker's efforts after being introduced to his work on The Great Debaters almost 10 years ago...I sat there and thought about this as the closing credits of Birth of a Nation started to roll.

To date, I'm still thinking about Birth of a Nation and what I will do next to learn more about Nat Turner's story. I also think about America's first "blockbuster" a Hollywood silent film, a horror one at that...directed by D.W. Griffith's, of the same name The Birth of a Nation released a little over a century prior to Parker's directorial debut. I thought about what I learned regarding President Wilson's screening of this racist propoganda at the White House in 1915.  I think about the implications of this film and domestic terrorism in the United States, the KKK and all the Black Americans that lost their lives...lives Billie Holiday would sing ode to in ((Strange Fruit)) a couple of decades later.  Lives connected to the lives we're losing today that protests demand justice for in 2016.

With Parker's film, I think about that creative connection to music and the compilation inspired by Nat Turner's Birth of a Nation.  I think about its relationship with literature. Recently, at Nate Parker's social media Twitter @NateParker, I found out about an educational companion text to the film titled The Birth of a Nation: Nat Turner and the Making of a Movement.

This past week I received a brick of Birth of a Nation bookmarks (see picture above).  The previous week I received film posters that I disseminated to local theaters and friends.  It was through a Twitter post by Amy Bowllan that I found out about these items and which I'm most grateful to have received.  Trust, they're in good hands and will be in others soon.

We're at the dawn of a twisted, cryptic, weird election in this country.  So as we go through this power trip, I look forward to what's next from all of the actors and actresses that came together in Birth of a Nation. I look forward to the dialogue and the first book I decide to read about Nat Turner that my Birth of a Nation bookmark will call home for a while.

Til' the Birth of a Nation blu-ray... Peace.


The Life Story of James Dewitt Yancey

The Life Story of James Dewitt Yancey
#HHstAcks #ChildrensStory

Last month I watched a YouTube interview with Maureen Yancey, mother of the late James Dewitt Yancey aka JDilla, on EBro in the Morning and was surprised to find out about the upcoming release of a children's book based on JDilla's childhood.  JDilla is a legendary Hip Hop beat maker and eMCee who made beats for groups such as A Tribe Called Quest, the Pharcyde, The Roots, Lucy Pearl, and solo artist such as Common, Q-Tip, Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu, and Busta Rhymez (just to name a few).  I grew up listening to JDilla's sound before I knew I was listening to JDilla's sound.  Some of my favorite groups and artist such as The Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest, and Busta Rhymez were the soundtrack to my early teenage years in the 90s and it wasn't until I got to college and started paying closer attention to the fine print that I found out who the source was to a lot of those was JDilla. By 2000, I was hooked in after listening to Fantastic Volume 2, an album by a group JDilla put together out of his hometown of Detroit with founding members Baatin and T3.  The group went by Slum Village.  By this time I was also a radio dj at my university and had access to more music than I could ever imagine.  Even among stacks and stacks of vinyl, CDs, and tapes, JDilla's music whether it was his solo Welcome 2 Detroit project, Slum Village music, or past productions always had a place in my rotation week in and week out.  Sadly, in 2006 the world received news that JDilla passed away after his long bout with a disease called Lupus. While I did hear that JDilla was sick, I had no idea that he had been fighting to stay alive.  I was shocked when I heard the news that JDilla passed away.  That week I recall sharing my thoughts and condolences on the radio.  In the coming months I would learn that even during the last few months of his life confined to a hospital bed, Dilla continued to create music for his fans. 

After discovering Laban Carrick Hill & Theodore Taylor's When The Beat Was Born children's book, subtitled DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop, it made me wonder why there weren't more children's books about a culture as youth driven as Hip Hop.  Learning about The Life Story of James Dewitt Yancey, I'm excited to see how illustrator Tokio Aoyama and Maureen Yancey present JDilla's upbringing in children's story form.  I think its great that the release is coming out exclusively through JDilla Merch which is run by JDilla's mother, Maureen Yancey who is known as "Ma Dukes".  Included with the book release is the audio book version as well, narrated by Ma Dukes.  It's a creative approach for someone who gave their life connecting with people all around the world through the sound and soul of Hip Hop.  Today many of JDilla's fans are parents, probably even some grandparents out there, or are older siblings to children that may never get around to learning about JDilla and what he contributed to Hip Hop.  This book is the perfect way to introduce the start of his story for generations to come.

The Life Story of James Dewitt Yancey can be purchased directly through the Dilla merchandise website by clicking on this link or the book image above.  It is set to be released on November 22, 2016.  Consider purchasing the book/audio book as a b-day gift or for the upcoming holidays. Also make sure to pass the word about The Life Story of James Dewitt Yancey to your community and school libraries.

@hiphopalumni Twitter check the #HHstAcks hashtag for other titles specific to Hip Hop literature and if included the #ChildrensStory hashtag for Hip Hop titles that are specific to younger readers.  Peace.


Monday, October 17, 2016

The Reading Police Oral History Project

The Reading Police
Oral History Project:

Understanding the Lives of
Those Who Serve and Protect

On March 2nd and 4th, 2015, students of Penn State Berks professor Justin De Senso class "Writing in the Social Sciences" course conducted community-based research to explore questions on policing and justice in America. With the support of the Penn State Berks Center for Service Learning and Community-Based Research, 22 students interviewed 14 City of Reading Police officers on Berks campus and recorded them for archiving at the Historical Society of Berks County in Reading, Pennsylvania.  The purpose of the research was threefold: 1) To understand how police officers understand themselves and their profession; 2) to document the life and work of local officers in their own words; and 3) to share officers' stories with those whom they serve and protect.  To prepare for the interviews, students studies oral history methods, read broadly on the criminal justice system, crafted interview questions, and practiced on each other as well as a gracious Penn State Berks police officer. For the interviews, students asked  officers three central questions.  Why did you join the Reading Police department? What has defined your time as an officer? And what are your thoughts on your overall experience? As the recordings reveal, students also improvised and asked unscripted questions to "share authority" with officers and shape interviews on their own terms.

For more information on the oral history project contact Professor Justin De Senso

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

L.A. Son My Life My City My Food

L.A. Son
My Life My City My Food
by Roy Choi

During my lunch hour in 2013, I turned the key to start my car. The radio is usually preset to NPR when I'm not listening to my CDs or mobile phone.  Past mid afternoon I expected to hear the usual news hour, jazz or opera, but was surprised to hear a conversation with references to lowrider culture, Korean barbecue, kimchi, Los Angeles, addictions, and just about every topic that comes out of an informal conversation with a Hip Hop head. Radio where I am is never like this.  I take breaks at random times throughout the day depending on my schedule and felt lucky for the hour I had ahead of me to listen in.  This was my introduction to Roy Choi sharing memories of his life, city, and food to promote the L.A. Son book.  

I thought of this book often ever since.  I never forget the mental notes I make for what I want to purchase and I'm glad to say I now own a copy.  Me and my youngest brother, who got involved with culinary classes in high school, are reading L.A. Son.  It's a first of its kind for me especially with how the book combines Roy's story with life recipes.  It's a work of art and an interdisciplinary contribution to all kinds of histories connected to Korean culture, life in the U.S., immigration, the streets, growing up Hip Hop, jewelry, food, recovery, family, and the City of Angels.  

Highly recommend this text.  To check out the NPR interview referenced above, here's the link: click here.  

Definitely one for the stacks.

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