Monday, March 17, 2014

Story of a Show: Native Hip Hop Showcase at Daybreak Star

On March 7th, 2014, I had the honor of joining Sista Hailstorm and a host of other Native Hip Hop artists at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center for a powerful event and showcase. Drawing together elders, families, and youth, the gathering featured sets from a broad base of indigenous artists from all over the region and beyond including Jacmov Jay T, Tiny Lokota, G-Field, Native Styles 1, Mista Chief, Stryk-9, M.U.S.T I Mind, Salish Son, and Epidehmik and Phillosphy, with DJ Too Quick holding down the tables for the night and Shigg Says Radio holding down interviews and a live broadcast of the show. The 206 Zulu Shakas lent their support for security, and host of the evening was Lady Belknap, emcee and organizer of the night.

Deeper than your average Hip Hop show, this event occurred on the eve of the 44th anniversary of the militant, grassroots reclamation of the land and space which is now Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, and the significance of this was not lost on attendees. Prior to the event, Lady Belknap convened a circle of introductions, blessings, and thanks for all involved. Amidst burning sage, traditional song, and the exchange of gifts, staff, elders, artists, and volunteers went around and shared their backgrounds, stories, and gratitude. Particularly moving for me were the words of Pam Nason Kia/Elder at United Indians. As a
close friend of the late Bernie Whitebear who spearheaded the reclamation, Pam has worked with the center since its inception and the depth of her connection to the space and its legacy was apparent as she spoke. Through teary eyes, she thanked everyone for our presence, for breathing life back into the struggling Daybreak Center, and for the inspiration and promise of better days to come through solidarity, mutual support, and community building. 

Below is an interview I did with Lady Belknap on the origins of this event, its impact and the intersections of culture, struggle, Hip Hop, and decolonization. A more thorough write up on the performance aspect of this showcase by Ramona Ridgewell, along with more photos from the show is available here

JULIE C: What was your vision for this event?

LADY BELKNAP:  My vision for the Native American Hip Hop Concert was to showcase Native rappers to the Northwest publically, including myself, Lady Belknap. Never did I dream that this event would be so publicized and there would become a demand in the state of Washington for more Native Hip Hop concerts in the future because of this event. Initially, I simply wanted to help keep the doors of the United Indians/Daybreak Star open because they were about to foreclose on the property and lose everything. I had a strong burden in my heart to help and do something, anything no matter how small the effort was. From the time I pitched the idea to United Indians to have an All-Native American Hip Hop Benefit Concert line up, a big check came in to help keep the doors open at Daybreak Star. Therefore the concert then became a fundraiser effort for the Seafair Pow Wow, which needed money to happen this year as well. 

JC: How does Hip Hop relate to the legacy of struggle at Daybreak and to that of first peoples in general?

LB: If you read my Lady Belknap Profile, you will see that my music is a story of the evil that has happened to Native American People over the generations since Assimilation of First Americans-Native American People in North America.  Daybreak Star/United Indians struggle to stay open is pretty much the story of Native Americans simply trying to stay alive and exist for generations.  To me personally, this is completely mind-blowing that we as a First Nations people would have to fight to live and thrive because we were here in the United States long before it ever was a country.  The struggle at Daybreak is no different than the struggle of Native American Populations all across America today and in the past.  Our people seem to have to fight just to stay alive and exist as sovereign nations as promised in many treaties in the past.

Indian Health Services Statistics say that Native Americans have at least 100-300% higher rates than other races in suicide, domestic abuse, teenage pregnancy, high school dropout, drug/alcohol abuse, death to preventable things like car wrecks, diabetes complications, etc.  The unemployment rates are usually in the 90th percentile on most Indian Reservations in the U.S. Native American Children put in foster homes in this nation is sort of an epidemic.  This is sad to know that the indigenous people of this nation have such oppression in this day and age.

Native American Hip Hop has become an outlet for Indian rappers, emcees, singers, and so forth to have an outlet to their pain and frustration, like mine personally about Native American People’s conditions today.  Hip Hop has also become an outlet that Native Artists can actually have a career in music when no other options are available.  The Native Rappers/Emcees can use their God-Given Talents to showcase to the world professionally in Hip Hop.  You will find there are so many Native American’s with talent in Hip Hop and simply need a helping hand to show case their talent, encourage them, and point them in positive directions to success.  This is what the Native American Hip Hop Benefit Concert at Daybreak Star was about to Lady Belknap, the host and performer.  The traditional Native American Way is to help others, especially your own people and this was the underlying motto.

JC: What made you reach out to 206 Zulu shakas to hold down security force?

LB: I had been networking via Facebook with 206 Zulu for a very long time.  There were many in time that I grew to know on a professional level in a two years time concerning Hip Hop in the Puget Sound.  I had been watching 206 Zulu for some time and started going to their events with my family when invited or when I saw them taking place.  Many 206 Zulu Members told me that they would always be of any assistance for my rap career and all I had to do was ask.  I kept this in the back of my mind for the future.

I attended the 10th Anniversary Zulu Event on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, 2014, and was blown away by what I saw! Sista Hailstorm is a rapper who I only saw on Youtube before, but have been wanting to watch perform live was spitting on stage with Julie C, and they tore that stage up with fire on that microphone!  I WAS EXCITED!  So when it came time for the line-up to be chosen for the Native American Hip Hop Line-Up to be chosen at Daybreak Star, the first performer that came to my mind was Sista Hailstorm

When I went to the 206 Zulu 10th Anniversary I witnessed so much love, compassion, caring, and family values I ever saw at a Hip Hop Event.  I saw a lady rapping on stage with a baby on her back! [Olisa 'Spyc-E' Enrico] I NEVER WITNESSED SOMETHING SO BEAUTIFUL IN HIP HOP! In my mind and heart, I had to collaborate with 206 Zulu on behalf of Daybreak Star/United Indians because I knew they could teach us how to be unified and love each other on that kind of level in time as I witnessed on Valentine’s Day of all days!  I was introduced to King Khazm by Miss Jocie Hamilton, 206 Zulu Member from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana.  I’m from Montana too and had been networking with her for a long time via Facebook and met her for the first time in person that night. 

I also saw Sista Hailstorm acting as security at the 206 Zulu 10th Anniversary Event and had approached her about being security for our event at Daybreak as well.  I know that Sista Hailstorm is very traditional and cultural in the Native American Ways and I knew I could count on her and 206 Zulu to carry that same respect and reverence as an artist and as security at the Daybreak Star Facility.  We were also on a zero budget as well, and I knew that 206 Zulu would be empathetic to help and volunteer their time and services.  

I had been watching DJ Too Quick aka Back Pack Chris spin for about a year and a half at Columbia City Theatre and was very impressed with his skills and professionalism which is why I asked him to participate as a DJ, and he said yes immediately.  I didn’t know that he is Native American from Alaska as well.  I was very shocked and very happy that he was the disc jockey who represented the 1st Nations as well.  The audience loved DJ Too Quick as did the volunteers and rappers.

Shigg Says Radio was broadcasting the event live and I had asked him because of his DEEP love and reverence for Underground Hip Hop and a friend was very impressed with his skills and the way he works well with people.  He’s a person who loves to exhort and lift others up with a positive mental attitude always!  I chose to ask Shigg because of these things.  Of course, he was excited to broadcast the show live and had so many interviews that he could barely keep up!  I watched him at the Native Hip Hop Benefit Concert as excited as a little kid in a candy store or toy store, haha.  J  Shigg wants to follow all of the artists who performed Native and Non-Native in our careers.

My vision for this Native American Hip Hop Fund-Raising Concert surpassed anything I had initially envisioned.  I’m excited to take the contacts and team mates I gained and do something with hip hop professionally not only in the Puget Sound in Seattle, but in Washington State and all over Indian Country in North America!  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Recap of CHURCH!'s Half B-Day Plus Preview

The next CHURCH! is coming up on Sunday, and we have another power packed line up to bring you. On the beatmaker end, we are featuring our very own Diogenes who will be joined by Tacoma-based QuiVive. The duo will be rocking sets from their freshly released dually produced beat tape entitled Swap Meet, an auditory experiment in what happens when two creative minds breath new life into same samples. On the emcee tip, we have the lovely Paradame, queen pin of the Audiodose crew rocking tracks from her newly released album Rebel's Advocate, and town legend Asun, pioneering Seattle spitter from 206 Zulu/Alpha P. We hope you make it out to this event. If you missed last month's service, here's what went down with links to the photo album, stills from video shot by our dear friend Charles C.

First of all, shouts to Mariam, who expanded the CHURCH! repertoire this month by bringing us
a live painting backdrop to the evening. We opened up the night with Nikolai Kookesh, a unique beatmaker who brought us a spectacular out of the box set that set the stage of cypher sessions beautifully. February's cypher champs included DoNoMal, Raven, Mannotone, Madshroom, Rico, Dakota and more. Gregory Cypher of Kung Fu Grip dropped a few bars with us as well. 

This was followed up by a brief but powerful set by Revels, and the cypher was then reignited to slaps by Vaughnilla, hailing from FFU and Black Magic Noize crew, who opened up the mic during his vibrant instrumental set. 

Last but certainly not least was a set from the phenomenal Militant Child, a powerful sister who had the crowd captivated from the beginning to the end of her set. With intelligent, witty rhymes that challenge the paradigms of the status quo, and a stage presence that commands the attention of even the most indifferent eyes and ears, Mili definitely left her mark on CHURCH! and we were happy to have here. I'll let her set speak for itself with the video below.

Below are some more photos from February 9th, 2014's CHURCH! Check out the full album HERE. Enjoy, and I hope you will join us this Sunday, March 9th, for our next event. As always a big special thanks to the comrades at Black Coffee Coop for allowing us to share the space every month, as well as a huge thanks to the overworked and under-recognized squadron of volunteers at Seattle Community Media Lab for holding down the sound and more recently the lighting and other special effects for CHURCH! We love you all.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

CHURCH! The 5th Chapter: Photos and Summary

CHURCH! kicked off 2014 with another excellent coming together of amazing artists and energies. Again, thanks as always to the wonderful crew of Seattle Community Media Lab for going ALL OUT this month with lights, soundboard recording, lasers, and haze machines, to our new wonderful officially unofficial photographer/videographer the talented Charles Conatzer, and to the good people at Black Coffee Coop. All the photos in this blog are by Charles, and there will be video up soon. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, we lost the audio from the event, but definitely be looking for that in upcoming CHURCH! events as we are certain to work through the kinks and bring you some solid coverage in the very near future. Let's run down a little replay of our features and what they brought to the table.

We opened the night with another Filthy Fingers United beatmaker K-E-L, who really set the bar high, and by reports of attendees was an impressive kick off for the evening. My co-host/organizer Diogenes said, "K-E-L brought quite the array of 404 weirdness. Apparently he's like a master on the SP-404 forums, as Wiz told me. It shows in his performance, he seemingly plays loops/sounds/what-have-you at random but there's definitely a process behind it." I also asked previous CHURCH! performers the emcee and beatmaker duo Sendai and Era what they thought. Mike Sendai wrote, "K-E-L's set really exemplified what FFU and CHURCH! is about: Timeless hip hop. His style is very progressive and innovative while still staying true to traditional production techniques and textures." Enrico Era added, "The set that K-E-L put on really had this grimy and dark vibe to it, that was pretty captivating for  the whole performance. The whole feeling was heavy and raw, even the transitions. I was pretty much vibing out to the images he was making the entire time."
Up next we had a super unique set from emcee Zen Seizure, a self-described stage and video game addict. When he took the mic and announced he was about to perform an entire set on the latter, I didn't quite believe him. But he did. And by the end of the set, his unique charisma and awkward charm had the crowd in stitches. This young man is truly hilarious. The set started off slow, and reached a crescendo with a track where he invited two friends to come rock with him, the chorus of which went: 
"My mage got a cute face, My archer got a nice body/ And they just wanna level up, this is my type of party/ RPG's are my hobby, I've played over 25 probably/ There's no drinking, no smoking, this is my type of party!" 
I asked my brother emcee Korvus Blackbird his thoughts on Zen. Korvus, in his typical poetic prose wrote, "His lyrics flew down from a perch to land in my dome, brought me home as kid in front the TV playing Pong and Atari."

Next up in line was thad wenachee, a beat maker I've had the pleasure of sharing a line up with in the past. In the words of Enrico Era, "his set was straight on that classic hip hop shit. Hella clean, and kept you engaged throughout. The vibe just kept my head nodding and held that feeling of vibing out throughout the performance. I just geek out on how producers are able to work live and create like that on stage." Mike Sendai added that thad brought "a classic boom bap sound. He's not jumping on any trends or flavor of the month styles like many contemporary producers.

We topped off the night with the bold and fierce, Lady P, who's modest set of only three songs still left quite the impact. As a spitter myself, I'm definitely partial to women who come hard on the mic, and Lady P is certainly an inspiring example of this. Her hard hitting, unapologetic, but simultaneously thoughtful tracks moved the crowd and got people dancing. Korvus Blackbird the ever eloquent wrote, "I witnessed round brown close to the ground emcee. She brought power and insight to the light she shined through the mic at CHURCH! last night. I viscerally enjoyed the supreme expression of a culture.

Afterwards, we got a little sample of a track from my brother Must I Mind, who is upping his chop game superbly. Be looking out for a feature set from him sometime this year. And then of course the cyphers were popping. To beats by Diogenes, our stars of the cypher this month were certainly Korvus Blackbird, Rico Era, Shredded Wheat and a number of CHURCH! regulars I have to apologize for being unable to shout out by name. In fact, the cyphers this month continued an hour past our sound breakdown and were still in occurence when I left to catch my bus home around 11pm. I love it. 

Please join us Feb 9th for the next CHURCH! where we will feature the talented Militant Child and Revels on the mic, and also the wonderful Vaughnilla and Nikolai Kookesh on the beats. 

Enjoy photos below from Charles Conatzer, and we should have some creatively pieced together footage from him shortly!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

CHURCH! Bringing 2013 to a Divine End

What can I say, other than I am so grateful and appreciative of all the artists, producers, (especially my co-organizer/host Diogenes and our official beat making sponsors from the magnanimous Filthy Fingers United mega crew), family and friends new and old, and whoever else has made CHURCH! what it is. Although I am a bit behind in my updates, I wanted to share with those who didn't make it a hasty summary of what went down in November and December, and also provide a glimpse into what you can look forward to in 2014. But before that, special shouts out to Seattle Community Media Lab for taking their time to support the sound for this and many other important grassroots efforts of creative resistance and direct action all over our region. I'd like to mention that the Lab is in dire straits, and is in need of support from the community it gives so much to in order to keep their services free and available to all. Please consider making a sustainer-ship monthly donation, however big or small you can afford, to help this important all volunteer crew keep their rent paid and their doors open to all. Every little bit helps when we're running on the fuel of community self-determination.

November CHURCH!: The Black Magic Noize TAKEOVER!

In keeping it really real, our November installation of our monthly extravaganza was our most popping CHURCH! to date, thanks to our comrades from the Black Magic Noize brigade. It had to be at least 200 people deep inside and out on our corner of Capitol Hill. Black Magic Noize is an amazing collective of emcees, producers, graf writers, organizers, engineers, and whatever other hats that one could wear. They bring an incredible energy to each and every space they bless, and are tremendously genuine, humble, and talented people, so we were more than happy to hand them the reigns for our November Sunday evening at Black Coffee. In addition, we were lucky to have the talented photographer Charles Conatzer take some flicks for us, and he captured the moments beautifully. Enjoy the gallery here.

Mosh Pit Action, Black Magic Noize

We opened up this night with BMN's own Nocturnal, emcee and producer, who laced us some beats to freestyle and vibe to, and 
followed this up with a set from the vibrant and talented emcee, singer, and spiritual motivator Lovely Bringer of the Sun. After that, we were fortunate to get a solo set from Wizdumb, another producer/emcee visionary behind the monthly live producers event Pad Pushers, at Vermillion (don't miss the upcoming one of these January 19th!). Wiz's album Basementality was recently named one of the top works in 206 Hip Hop in 2013 by The Stranger weekly, so don't skip out on listening to that joint. Then started the madness. BMN's Araless, Madshroom MC, and DJ Corn Dogg took the the mic and damn near started a riot in the spot. If you don't believe me, here's the photographic evidence again. Told you. Big shouts to all of you again for making that happen. It was unbelievable.

December CHURCH!: Spyc-E, Akira Guatama, Sendai and Era, and SeanyCee

We also had an incredible line-up to wrap up our 2013 for our 4th installation of CHURCH! We were blessed to start off this evening with a short set from Si Dåko'ta Alcantara-Camacho, well known and loved Seattle poet, emcee, and organizer, who shared with us his music, and also told us about the important Our Islands Are Sacred Campaign, an effort launched in response to the U.S. military plans to expand training and testing activities in the Mariana Islands, the indigenous lands of his people. Be sure to click like on that link to stay abreast of the important activities going on in the continuous and multidimensional struggle towards decolonization. 

Dåko'ta was followed up by producers SeanyCee and Akira Gautama, bringing us both beats to vibe with and rhymes to hear out. After that we had a special treat, a set from the one and only Seattle legend, Spyc-E, who has been rockin' the mic for almost 20 years. Olisa "Spyc-E" Enrico has participated in and won emcee battles, and represents women in hip hop wherever she is. She has performed both nationally and internationally. With her son strapped to her chest, guarded by a set of ear mufflers, she blew away the crowd at Black Coffee with her powerful presence, moving vocals, and wise words. Word has it this 206 vet has a new album in the kitchen ready to be served, so be sure to stay on the look at for some new music from her in 2014! 

Finally, we wrapped up the night with the first time ever debut performance from the up and coming duo Sendai & Era. Now. We all know Seattle is potent with great music from fresh young artists, but I am not joking when I say these two truly are something to watch for in 2014. They are AMAZING. With live beats being pounded out, diverse cadences and impressive style-flipping, and
THOROUGH political content and radical wisdom beyond their years, they are sure to be making a noticeable impact on the scene very soon. When you start hearing about them, remember I told you first. Also special shouts to Raven and DoNorMal for coming and rocking a track as well to Grayskul from the legendary Oldominion crew for making a guest appearance, and to everyone that touched the mic and shared their spirit and energy in this space from day one. THANK YOU!

Be sure to join us for our New Year's edition of CHURCH! January 12th 7-10pm featuring emcees Lady P, and Zen Seizure, and beatmakers K-E-L, Thad Wenatchee, and some special features (MustIMind, and maybe more.) This is Joule Sea signing off. See ya soon, Seattle.

Monday, October 14, 2013

CHURCH! Part II Recap

The October installation of CHURCH! was a tremendous success, filling up Black Coffee and the block on Pine and Summit with heads from across communities and generations, and bringing vibrant energy to an otherwise dead Sunday evening on Cap Hill. If you missed it, don't worry, our third installation, the impending Black Magic Noize takeover, is sure to be just as live, so join us November 10th. Here's a recap on what went down:

While Seattle Community Media Lab got the sound set up, we warmed up the space with tracks from the Super Adaptoid Tape,
Dil Withers
a compilation cassette featuring 16 producers from all over the country including Seattle's Wizdumb, Weasley Snipes, who featured on our first CHURCH! installation in September, Tacoma's Quivive, and our own wonderful co-host Diogenes.Town staple, Korvus Blackbird blessed us with some freestyles, and we moved into our first set from Seattle beatmaker Dil Withers, a humble young artist who first caught Diogenes's attention at local BEATS and Pad Pushers nights. "The way I see it is there's a circle of beat makers in this city that are easily comparable to what I feel jazz musicians in the 50-60s would be like," said Diogenes, "Dil's music says so much as instrumentals that I'd never wanna hear vocals on it. Timing and cadence of these abstract pieces re-envisioned through a fresh perspective crossed with near retro equipment makes his sound some of the chillest jams I've heard. He never masters it loud either, he just let's it ride." This warm, syncopated sample-flipping has earned Dil a large following online that is rapidly building momentum. Be sure to check out this link to his soundcloud so you're not caught sleeping.

Dex Amora
Dil's set was followed up by one of our CHURCH! co-conspirators, 19 years old Dex Amora. I first met Dex in a cypher at another Black Coffee event several months back, and was more than impressed by the smooth sophistication of his flow. Part of a growing contingency of 90s-baby emcees in the town that are resurrecting boom-bap with a fresh twist, Dex's emceeing emanates the motivation and hunger of a young artist laced with old-soul wisdom and cadence. Dex graced the space with a short set, which included his new single "Who I Be". Click the link for the video of this track, directed by J'Von Buckley. Dex is currently completing a project called #HerbPenSoul, so be sure to follow his Twitter, and stay connected for more music dropping real soon.

Since part of the vision for CHURCH! is bringing together young talent with veteran artists to build community, expand opportunity, and elevate the scene collectively, I was excited to hear that Universal Zulu Nation/206 Zulu ambassador and co-host of LA-based internet radio show Hip Hop Philosophy w/ A.C the Program Director, my sister Cassandra Williams was inspired by these two artists. "I haven't been to a show in a very long time here in Seattle because I believe that a lot of folks just played themselves out (over-saturated the shows). I caught wind of Dex Amora through a video Julie posted on her Facebook wall. I was blown away. I appreciate people that take pride in their craft and aren't busy trying to exploit every opportunity and every cent. It's very refreshing to see young Black men in Seattle understand what real Hip Hop music is," Cassandra said, "I at one point thought that hope was lost for this next generation. I was proven wrong by attending this show. It's amazing seeing Dex and Dil stand up and do it right, they've given me hope." Listen to one of Cassandra's shows, featuring an all Seattle line up here, and tune in regularly live Mondays and Wednesdays. Now back to the night.

Zeta, caked up.
During our transition, we played some more off of Super Android, while Shark Tooth Dentures, Revels, J'Von, Rico and Araless dropped some freestyles, then we kicked off the next set with a special surprise for our honoured birthday guest Zeta Barber: a Bump Local cake, baked by the homegirl Jessica Diaz, with edible lettering by Sista Hailstorm. Zeta is one of those selfless forces in the community that been putting it in for the ENTIRE town for a grip, be it through his graphic designs and support for local urban arts youth organizations, his screen-printing, his All City Chop mixtape series, spinning for events like The New High on Mondays at Capitol Hill Cider, Free Hip Hop Thursdays at Columbia City Theater,  Free Hip Hop Fridays at Vermillion, and so much more, so we were happy to help bring in a new revolution around the sun for this integral part of the 206 scene. Zeta's set got people up and dancing, blending raw Hip Hop rhythms and samples with a pinch of electronic bass, and a "Tender Love" flip that was off the chain. Hearing Alpha Platoon emcee Jack Gaffle sprinkle one of the tracks with his spit-fire ferocity wrapped up the set nicely. Thanks for celebrating your birthday with us at CHURCH! Zeta.

Laura Piece
The final performer of the night was Seattle Hip Hop pioneer Laura Piece, a formative force in the scene not only in music but also in the early years of the Hip Hop education movement, bringing Hip Hop into classrooms across the city before such things were acceptable and popular. A former Def Jam Poet, a city arts commissioner, writer and star of her own play, and a woman with a permanent exhibit in the EMP who's opened up for the Dalai Lama himself, Piece is a powerhouse fueled by original b-girl soul. We were lucky to have her grace our space. She gave us a sneak peak off her brand new upcoming album The War is Over performing melodic tracks, many of which she produced herself, also bringing town OG KingDro up the mic for a track. Check the first single and title track "The War is Over".  

Gregory Lewis
Following Piece, Gregory Lewis, of 206 Zulu/21st Century Martial Arts and of course, the All Power to the Positive Podcast, took to the mic to spread the word about what is going down at Horace Mann School in the heart of the CD. Informing the crowd of the community-led effort to reclaim space for culturally-competent education and youth service, he told us that Africatown, a coalition of 18 organizations who made Horace Mann home this summer and have served over 500 youth in the process through Hip Hop, culture, education, fashion, dance programs, and more, is facing eviction from the Seattle Public School District to reopen NOVA, despite the fact that the NOVA community is supportive of Africatown's presence. Please learn more about this struggle for self-determination, and ways you can help by staying in the loop about what's happening. Things are developing rapidly! Check out for updates, and email to get on the mailing list.

As always, we closed out the night with a cypher session, featuring beats from Dil, Zeta, and Diogenes, and more freestyles from Revels, Akira, Korvus, and Shark Dentures, and as always, we wrapped up at 10pm, right at the nick of time to avoid noise complaints and get enough sleep for work and school in the morning. I'd like to take this space to shout out everyone who I haven't mentioned yet who came through to support and lend their time, attention, and energy to make this event what it is: Nikkita, Crystal, Lovely,  Bash and Hudson of Black Coffee, Alyssa and Damien of Seattle Community Media Lab, Falon, Liz, Bling, Page One, Must I Mind, Emily, Mike, Kristina, Alon, Vaughnilla, Syed of Seattle Capoeira Center, Nicodemus, everyone you brought, everyone who stumbled in, and everyone I may have forgotten.

See y'all November 10th at Black Coffee for CHURCH! Part III. LOVE.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Story of a Show: Olmeca in Seattle

Back in August 26th, 2013, the world renowned underground revolutionary artist from LA, Olmeca, touched down in Seattle. He was joined on stage with Sista Hailstorm, Julie C, and Poesia (who also did this flyer artwork to the right) for an intimate show. If you missed it, which you probably did due to that fact that this show was largely overlooked by the Hip Hop community in Seattle, there is video below. But my aim in this narrative is not to guilt you for not coming. Actually, I want to share an important back story to how this event even came about. For me, organizers of the event, and for the author of the narrative below, the beginning of this story started on a rainy night down at Westlake at the dawn of Occupy Seattle, traveled across the imaginary lines we call 'borders' south to Chiapas, the heart of the Zapatista movement, and back up before landing at South Side Commons in Columbia City. I first met Tabs, aka Isolina, one organizer of this event, on one of those early Occupy nights. Actually, the first time I saw her, she was getting arrested by the SPD for sitting on the ground. She became one of the powerful voices advocating the decolonization framework for Occupy, and a big supporter of Hip Hop Occupies to Decolonize early in the game while we were still battling the doubtful for a voice in the movement. I talk a lot about the importance of art and culture in movement, revolution, change. It is, to me, a fundamental aspect of humanity, and thus just as fundamental in inspiring, galvanizing, and organizing the masses, beyond just "a tool of outreach". So I guess, take the story below as a case study, and remember, it's always bigger than Hip Hop. Here it goes, in her words:

"When I reflect back on the journey we took in December 2012, I can hardly believe that was part of my life. It was a shared experience with four other female bodied people. A shared experience, that was potent, eye opening, and an affirmation that our ancestors are with us holding our hands, holding us up, and guiding us through a very tricky world.  We are on a path and we do not know where it will take us.

Much earlier that year a group of folks that had organized a myriad of actions and events, amidst the craziness and hostility that was Occupy Seattle.  That is where it really started.  When our paths crossed and the direction of our lives would move in ways we couldn’t have forseen. We discussed the need for International Solidarity, to share our experience and to listen with an open heart to the experiences of those across imaginary lines, without the misrepresentation of “the media”.  We wanted real stories and we are a group that acknowledges the liberation of all, is through Decolonization.  This was a topic we explored together, most of us people of color, but some of us not. We were learning and searching in our own hearts, and I know this globalized system is not for us, never was, and never will be.

Our intentions grew clear, we sought living examples of autonomy, that were not tendency based. Personally the “autonomy” exercised in the Seattle Anarchist scene was a joke to me. It was just that, a scene, instead of a healthy thriving community. There was no focus on how to build outside of the system, merely romanticizing burning down the system.  Romantic ideas of revolt, but as we know romance can fade.  They so wanted Seattle to be Greece or Spain, but with clouds always hovering close, it’s hard to rile up a crowd here.  
For me, it is all about what you do, more than what you say, because talk is very cheap and it is rare to see talk turned into action that benefits the community and not the individual.  Everyone wants to be down with the black n’ brown struggle, but the practice from many tendency’s, is alienating to those from those communities.  I don’t need someone to tell me about my oppression.  I live it, every day, so thanks but no thanks.  That is not helpful to me.  By the way I don’t consider myself an activist and I don’t claim a tendency. I’m just a human being that is after the truth and I want to live a real life, not just survive in a system.  And I’m down to work, that’s why my focus is growing organic localized food, in the city! Food Autonomy, taking government and corporations out of the food system and focusing on community based gardens that exist on every city side strip of grass. Talk about un-seemingly subversive.  Healthy food is a human right, not a commodity.  A body deprived of good nutrition has the side effect of a lack of will, hmmmm interesting. More Prozac please.  

As the months and meetings went on it boiled down to five people going to Chiapas, Mexico. Our intention was to see autonomy as a living, breathing, working way of life. Not just a theory in a book.  We wanted to learn how to incorporate autonomy within the city and within what we do in our communities.  We were able to stay at La Universidad de la Tierra (the university of the earth), an autonomous university open and free to those that want to learn. A university that acquired land through a donation, the school has everything that it needs to be sustainable on the campus. Everything!  And it is all made with beauty. We were welcomed there with open arms and curious looks.  The university works closely with the Zapatista communities and we were humbled to be able to experience and see what we did.  And we were able to do this because of ARMA, a group from L.A. that organizes brigada’s a couple of times a year to Zapatista communities. Our friend Olmeca was crucial to make our journey happen. He prepped us and helped us and without his good words for us, we would have not been able to have gone. For this we were indebted to him and we wanted to hold him up by organizing a hip-hop show in Seattle. We also wanted to meet him, as only one person in our group had met him before.  We put together our humble show, we don’t have a background in organizing music shows, and we wanted it to be accessible monetarily as well as different age groups.  As Julie C put it, it was a potent group of folks that showed up.  We are sure there will be more shows, as Olmeca created a very special and heartfelt show, and he has a lot to share.

Our group is into building lasting relationships and global community,  whether it be on the West Coast of the U.S. or across the imaginary lines called borders.  We are in a time of darkness in humanity and personally I’m interested in the light that will come after, but it will take work, it will take time, and for it to be healthy change, it takes communities and ego-less solidarity.  We do this for the kids, for the elders, for the communities, and for the ancestors guiding us towards a life of dignity, honesty, and respect. Together we Decolonize.
- Isolina"

Footage from the show: