DRIP DROPS of HIP-HOP from CHATTANOOGA
By Ben Banks
Over the weekend, I sat down with Erika Roberts of Velvet Poetry, Seaux Chill, Alive De Poet and Brophesor X for a conversation about their event, This Is Not Black History Month. We discussed how this event is trying to reshape the narratives that are taught about black history and how it needs to move forward in 2019 and beyond. Event is February 1st, starting at 7pm, at The Spot.
Where did the idea for this event from?
Erika: The idea came from where we should be going with Black History Month. We started with Carter G. Woodson and Negro History Week in 1926. This is 2019; we deserve more than a week, or a month, it should be a part of life. For years, I’ve gone to several Black History Month programs. I created the title of this event at a workshop, to plug Black History back into our lives. I’ve always loved February, it’s my birthday month. Most places usually have events celebrating Black culture during February, but only during the 28 days, plus the extra day on leap years. But I want to expand that experience into the whole year. We decided to bring in poets that have stepped outside poetry into activism. We also brought in Brophesor X to lead guided meditation during show, just creating a vibe, a foundation of peace. And what’s a show with Seaux Chill that doesn’t have amazing, thoughtful music? We are gonna try to touch all five senses in this experience.
Brophesor X: Black History is traumatic. It’s filled with blood, gore, and violence. I wanted to give people the opportunity to sit through that but not dwell on that. Focus on our identity, but not the identity we’ve been given. I’m talking about our ancient identity, black and gold. We are going to be diving deep into our mind, our DNA, pulling on our source and soul, in order to connect with self. Once we connect to ourselves, then we can connect with others to embody and practice love.
What audience are trying to reach out to through this event?
Seaux: Everybody, especially students and educators. We’ve been taught incomplete narratives and we need reminding of the truth. This event is a seed; the idea is to have this moment together, then carry that energy on how to teach Black History in the future. Our goal is fighting against false narratives within education.
What do you want your audience to gain from attending?
Erika: A spark to dig deeper, than just a month. On March 1st, we’re still black. We also want to pick out parts of Black History that we usually don’t get to see. This event is building history; most of the time Black History events just show protest pictures, with the water hoses, dogs attacking, and the sit-ins at restaurants, then maybe they briefly talk about the present situation. We don’t see what happens between then and now or where our future is headed. The conversation doesn’t end there; we need to keep talking about this. When I was growing up, my father always told us two things; never to say ‘can’t’, we could catch an ass whooping for that faster than actually cursing. The other thing he constantly asked us: “What are you doing as a Black person?” As I grew up I modified that question to “What am I doing as a Black mother & woman?” We know who the black heroes are: Nelson Mandela, Malcom X, Dr. King, but we need to build on that knowledge and incorporate it into every month.
Alive: With my poem for the event, I’m focusing on Malcom X. But not the version we used to seeing, I’m talking about his greedier side, that hustler mentality. I’m showing him coming from a place of innocence, but then seeing the breaking of that innocence. I’m not negating his past, I’m acknowledging that if he hadn’t had that past or never went through those things, he would’ve been who he became.
Brophesor X: Society doesn’t believe in redemption, it’s a cancel culture. We are constantly seeing snapshots of life through social media and we don’t see the story behind them or the narrative. We are trying to open it up and show people the whole truth, not just parts or segments.
What does Black Culture mean to you?
Brophesor X: I can tell you… I think about us working with nothing and creating something. We’re creating things worth stealing, through innovation. There’s beauty in making things out of pain; like jazz, blues, RnB. I believe that jazz more beautiful than the Sistine chapel. We are creators of reality. Back in the day, our ancestors were singing songs, to build love and community. As an artists, our role is build the dreams of our ancestors. Moving past the illusions of racism, something that shouldn’t exist but has had a very real impact on our everyday lives.
Alive: Black culture is rebellion. We protest the norms with our hair, the way we dress and our style. Picking out things we like and creating something completely new with them, like using classical instruments in new ways in our music. Jazz/Blues is the original trap music. You know, just making things beautiful. Taking the worst parts or the leftovers given to us, like the scraps they gave to the slaves and they made some good eating out of it. We use every part.
Seaux: It’s rebellion, creativity and survival. Before jazz became mainstream, that’s how we coped, communed and told stories. There’s power in art and power in culture.
Talk about the significance of black voices contributing to the overall culture.
Seaux: We are culture; there’s no culture without black voices. When black voice speak, everyone rises. We empower those around us.
Alive: If America is a melting pot, we are the seasoning salt. We’ve added spice and flavor to the culture here.
Brophesor X: When you’ve been oppressed, you don’t want anyone else to be oppressed. I would go as far as to say that black voices are the soul of the culture in America and we led the way to rights for women, other minorities and LGBT community.
Erika: There’s a book called Black Voices; it’s a collection of black poetry and literature. I got it when I was 15 and I carried it everywhere. I realized then that we do have voices and as I got older, I saw that we have voices as far as what we say out loud, but we also have a voice that can go through time. The works and writings in the book belonged to authors that had already died but they still spoke to me. We all have a voice but we need to be purposeful on what we say.
What’s the importance of exploring Black History?
Seaux: It’s why we’re calling this Not Black History Month; we’re still dismantling mainstream conceptions and being fed incomplete narratives. We need to be able to tell the whole truth. Gotta know where you’re coming from, in order to build a foundation for the future.
Alive: If you don’t understand history, you could be told 2+2=5. You can be lied to if you don’t know your history, you could be manipulated. People need to understand that slavery, segregation wasn’t that long ago and see how those actions inform now. It gives you a perspective on why things are happening like they are now.
What do you feel like you personally are bringing to this conversation?
Erika: Since I’m older, I have a different experience ad perspective. Going to school at Red Bank, there was only one black teacher and just few black students. When I brought the idea of this event up in the company of other creative, I realized that this was not just a vapor of an idea; they affirmed and had similar feeling. With a co-sign from Seaux Chill, I knew that this was something that was needed. After that we just needed to choose poets to be a part of the event. I decided on the ones we have now based on their strengths, personality and who they are. They were all very factual; Alive and Kanika both did a lot research on the subjects of their poems. And Liz, Floami Fly, is a wordsmith; explaining a thought with words and makes you feel apart of it. Her piece is The Movement, where we’re going, embodying action and moving forward. This whole event is picking Black History apart, trying to make it palatable. Art makes it easier to understand. Everyone can understand art, if they say they don’t; they probably did understand, they just did’t like it. We’re adding our part of the momentum, creating a legacy and a pathway.
Is there anything you would like your audience to know before attending the event?
Seaux: All are welcome, just come with a willing ear to listen, and a humble posture.
Erika: One thing is that you don’t have to be a connoisseur of Black History to come. We don’t expect you to know everything, just attend the event and have this experience with us.
Alive: We want to make woke fun. You don’t have to be a scholar, if you love the culture, come out and support.
Tha Milk Drop is a site focused on highlighting the hip-hop culture in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but also taps into hip-hop worldwide. Each week we drop exclusive and new content from artists. Also catch the profiles and interviews of hip-hop artists and creatives.
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