Better Blackness

October 28, 2013

Sunshine Road and Sweet Earth Flying: Two Marion Brown Gems

Filed under: Icons,Music — betterblackness @ 4:08 pm
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There is so much great music on the Web that exemplifies Better Blackness. I could spend years re-posting it and completely disregard all other forms of expression. So I try to refrain from sharing as much as I would like. However, there are some instances when it seems downright negligent not to share outstanding work that is deserving of much wider appreciation. This is the case with lots of music by the late Marion Brown.  To keep him from being almost totally forgotten, here are two of his finest creations, “Sunshine Road” and “Sweet Earth Flying”, both from the 1970s — when there was more room for “creative music” within the jazz idiom and everything didn’t have to sound like a branch of Ellingtonia or vapid New Age. Alas, we can be thankful these recordings exist and that generous souls have made them available for our listening pleasure and edification (“Sweet Earth Flying” and the album November Cotton Flower, for example, take their inspiration from Jean Toomer’s genre-bending Cane).




August 22, 2013

Charles Lloyd’s Hymn to the Mother

Filed under: Icons,Music — betterblackness @ 2:46 pm
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Black buddhist jazz at its finest. The rest of the set is outstanding also. Listen and be enlightened.



May 16, 2013

Natasha Alford: Educated Negro

Filed under: Literature — betterblackness @ 7:28 pm
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A spoken word piece that’s neither unbearably jejune nor risibly vapid. It’s nuanced, too. Up, you mighty race!


April 13, 2013


Filed under: Literature — betterblackness @ 5:54 pm
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By Brenda Marie Osbey

from “Qu’on Arrive Enfin (a tale in-progress)”


and so we arrive at last in our native land —
the earth itself marked by slavery.
up there, in the open air, the stink, the hot funk of hot blood
the rowdy rebel-niggers of the past.
funny, no?
how we always return to this —
the city, the life
that slavery built,
tales altogether invented
as told by historians, founding fathers, the church.
but we are sick and tired of lies, dirty tricks and fraud,
we are sick of tales and of historians
sick of indigo, tobacco, rice and rum
we are sick of king-cotton and sugar cane
sick of it all
and can only wish hard-hard-hard
that the lakes, the bayous, swamps large and small
will have swallowed it all
erased it all.

In the Heart of the Moon: A Moment with Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté

Filed under: Icons,Music — betterblackness @ 5:21 pm
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Given all the internecine strife that is devastating Mali, Congo, Nigeria, the U.S. and other parts of the African Diaspora, this profile of the late Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté grows in resonance with each passing day. There were moments, there are moments, there will be moments when our better selves surface. Let’s cherish them.

February 1, 2013

“Slow Change” — Bobby Hutcherson

Filed under: Music — betterblackness @ 5:41 am
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This composition still feels as vital as the first time I heard it in 1969 or ’70. Moreover, it still feels like it’s in conversation with Oliver Nelson’s 1961 “Stolen Moments” and Donald Byrd’s “Cristo Redentor” from 1963. Less saccharine and decidedly more soberly spaced-out — if not cynical. It’s hard to forget or ignore for long.

January 27, 2013

“I Come from the Nigger Yard” — an excerpt

Filed under: Icons,Literature — betterblackness @ 4:32 pm
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There has been so much public discourse recently about the N-word, I couldn’t help but recall the great Guyanese poet Martin Carter’s classic opus from 1954. Here’s the last stanza:

I come from the nigger yard of yesterday
leaping from the oppressors’ hate
and the scorn of myself
I come to the world with scars upon my soul
wounds on my body, fury in my hands
I turn to the histories of men and the lives of peoples.
I examine the shower of sparks the wealth of the dreams.
I am pleased with the glories and sad with the sorrows
rich with the riches, poor with the loss.
From the nigger yard of yesterday I come with my burden.
To the world of to-morrow I turn with my strength.

Martin Carter

December 22, 2012

Asa’s Prescient “Fire on the Mountain”

Filed under: Music — betterblackness @ 6:03 pm
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Asa’s 2008 song and this killer video continue to be maddeningly relevant and enthralling.


December 18, 2012

Make Art Instead of Atrocities: Kara Walker’s Perspective

Filed under: Visual — betterblackness @ 6:44 pm
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The massacres in Newtown, CT, reminded me of this short interview from 2005 with Kara Walker in which she acknowledges that making art about atrocities is preferable to actually committing them. It may even help people with dangerous imaginations flush those evil thoughts out of their system.

Make art, not murder.

December 11, 2012

30 Shades of Black, Visually

Last year, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC, mounted 30 Americans, “a wide-ranging survey of work by many of the most important African American artists of the last three decades. Selected from the Rubell Family Collection, the exhibition brings together seminal figures such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Hammons with younger and emerging artists such as Kehinde Wiley and Shinique Smith. Often provocative and challenging, 30 Americans focuses on issues of racial, sexual, and historical identity in contemporary culture. It explores how each artist reckons with the notion of black identity in America, navigating such concerns as the struggle for civil rights, popular culture, and media imagery. At the same time, it highlights artistic legacy and influence, tracing subject matter and formal strategies across generations.”

The irony, of course, is that the Corcoran is a white institution and the works in 30 Americans are all the property of the Rubells. Yes, we’re still in this condition.

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