Winter Stands for Revolutionary Growth

By Njoli Brown

“For every century there is a crisis in our democracy, the response to which defines how future generations view those who were alive at the time. In the 18th century it was the transatlantic slave trade, in the 19th century it was slavery, in the 20th century it was Jim Crow. Today it is mass incarceration.”

– Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO, NAACP –

 

I know that most of us have entered into this work of social justice because we have a general concern for the welfare of our youths and for our society as a whole. We work to design relevant programming that provides skills that are translatable in real world situations. In order to better understand better those situations it’s important on our part to develop an understanding of the historical dynamics at play.  For, as positive a message as we desire to bring into educational institutions, we have to remember that the specter of prison  still looms large in the minds of our parents as a track which statistically competes with the likelihood of college for our students.  How do we combat this? How do we engage in the conversation?  One of the first things we can do is to well acquaint ourselves with the issues so that we can provide empathy and mindful, intentional and action based programming.

Look for community meetings, lectures and literature to enlighten you on, not only the current happenings in your communities, but the legacies within which these communities have evolved.  The Schomburg  offers a tremendously educational range of events, the Unitarian Universalist Association website is on my reading list this month.  Make winter the time to check out an exhibition or round up your squad to engage in some coffee and real talk or to redefine your role in the justice structure, investigating ways to empower your own level of engagement with Restorative Justice Initiative.

Let’s get you started…

Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, speaking at University of Chicago.

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, speaking at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Question. Resolve to be an advocate of progress.  Engage and act.

A Sister in Brotherhood Spaces

By JL Umipig

It’s been 2 years now since I arrived to Central Park on a spring evening and was welcomed by Guro Njoli and two of my brothers of Pekiti Tirsia Kali (PTK) Vin and Chris. And I recall so distinctly why I returned after that first moment- it was the feeling of being held in a process of betterment and strengthening through comraderie. From day one, my brothers of MSMB and PTK held me to a caliber of that encouragement to better and strengthen my being.

I a20161126_105810m one of the few Womxn who consistently trains with the brothers of PTK Elite and MSMBNYC. In two years I have watched sisters come through and I emphasize to them why I continue to train which consists of the reasons that most people do, to have consistent physical regiment for my fitness and health, to be able to defend myself when the time comes, and to strengthen my body and confidence. But also I continue and commit to PTK and MSMB because of what I felt in that initial moment that I began learning with this circle: the camaraderie and mutual betterment of self as a practitioner that I feel growing with my brothers. There is a real pride we have for the betterment of one another, the push to excel as a family unit, detached from competition amongst those in our crew. They push me to go hard, to be able to hold my own amongst anyone, no matter their size or their strength level.  There is a belief that I feel from the respect my brothers hold for me, that when we train, our genders have nothing to do with our ability to train hard, and be able to step up to the challenges of body, mind and spirit that our practice teaches us to stand up to.

Our guros hold us all to our strengths, and also hold us to strengthening our weaknesses. I see how each of them in their teachings see the value of each individual in the group, and I watch the camaraderie between them that is model to us all. It roots our circle, the way they are able to respect and hold one another in collaboration and in unique styles of giving knowledge to our training. And as the little sister in the crew they rarely mention my gender, only with the recognition of how to apply their teachings to the very real degradation and violence Womxn face on the daily and how to use the learnings for my protection and ability to be prepared should I be confronted with the realities of misogyny and gender violence in this world. They teach me to use my size to my advantage, and help me understand my power to survive.

When we talk about Kali, we orient the learnings around the ability of Pilipino ancestors to fight and survive in battle with their colonizers, who were often larger and more equipped than them. These teachings of Pilipino Ancestral practices and traditions is the other reason I stay. My guros value this and respect the roots of the a20160625_114602rt, they help us understand the context and it brings me closer to my ancestors in a new way of understanding. I feel them in my movements. I feel their spirit of survival and resistance. And they and my brothers make room for me to share my learnings and cultural practices and values as a healer, activist and artist in connection to our training- another way they welcome what I have to contribute to our circle of my strengths.

“Respect everyone, Fear no one” our MSMB mantra is core to the way we train, is core to the way we learn, is core to the way we build camaraderie. Every time I come to train, I feel valued, respected and cared for as a member to this circle of warriors. I believe that is how my ancestors intended this practice to be upheld. So I bring myself fully to every training and every gathering, ready to step into my power. Sure, every now and then the testosterone is real, the frustrations of having to deal with my femininity being sometimes a hindrance because I can’t hide I am a Womxn physically and there are instances of societal stereotypes that surface (that’s real), and the moments of having to step it up extra notches to have new members that are men see me the way my brothers who I’ve trained with from the beginning is real as well. But what outweighs all of that is that my brothers will always remind me I am valued, that I am seen and I am held and so the humanization is real, the honoring is real and the love that makes me feel Family in this circle of brothers is real.

 

Jana Lynne (JL) Umipig is the creator of “The Journey of a Brown Girl” www.thejourneyofabrowngirl.com  Director, Producer, Actress, Educator and Organizer she currently resides in NYC. JL image5has worked with different community organizations developing curriculum and programs that integrate theatre and visual arts with activism and leadership development, working with schools, community organizations, detention facilities, and rehabilitation and support group centers. She believes in the power of the arts to activate and move the human spirit for individual toward community empowerment and transformation.  She creates with the intention to connect human experience and spirit between all communities.

5 Questions: Soul & Music with Kojo Johnson

Kojo X Johnson of Bambu Station& FICA DC talks back to 5 Questions from Njoli Brown at NoPaper

I resist classifying my music. First it’s very hard to nail down. I feel like I’m all over the page sometimes when it comes to my inspirations. I have several approaches to music and I think each of them are a genuine reflection of who I am musically. Being multi-lingual/multi-cultural I tend to code switch a lot….maybe that’s what’s reflected in my music as well. …….
Back to the issue of classification, I think the term soul most fully identifies what I am influenced by and what I strive to give to my music. I am a soul singer, on a roots man trod if that makes sense. I’ve heard my self compared to soul singers like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, even Smokey Robinson  … A good friend and great singer/songwriter once said I was like Otis Redding (or some other soul singer) in Bob Marley’s band. I think that’s a colorful way to sum up what you’re hearing and when you think about it that’s a huge accolade.

My most natural stylistic instincts come mostly from the soul and gospel music I grew up on. as I’ve matured and expanded as an artist and as a person I’ve incorporated the influence music from other parts of the black diaspora like reggae, samba reggae, bossa nova, and even capoeira music. I feel completely comfortable flowing between what are considered “separate” genres because for me they all are expressions of diasporic soul. There’s a classification for you: diasporic soul. I think that’s the best yet.

kojoI think what reflects me the most in my music now are my lyrics. I spend a lot of effort trying have my lyrics reflect reality, to tell the truth about what I see, no matter how simple or massive. I can admit now that I probably wasted a lot of time struggling with writing because I was trying to sound as profound as possible while simultaneously trying to stay out of the middle of the story. I was trying to splash lyrical color without getting any on myself that would show everyone exactly who’s life, experiences, observations was behind the song. I think my creative honesty is what reflects more of who I am now. Also, I’m more confident of my purpose and my vision these days. I trust one-hundred percent the music coming from inside my head, from those higher regions. I know what it is i’m supposed to be saying musically and what it should sound like.

Many creative people will tell you that that’s where the battle begins, getting the end product to reflect and honor the inspiration for the project. Early on, when I found my medium of expression I was so overwhelmed at the gift and opportunity to be an artist somehow responsible for storytelling about the human condition the possibilities for expression seemed endless and it was hard to know which instinct to obey first. I think my creative processes reflect that I trust my instinct fully now, even when my ability takes a few steps to catch up.

In a vague fashion, I would say that my life’s experiences and personal struggles have really brought me to where I am. First, I think what I’ve learned through doing a lot of youth and community development work in the inner cities and even in the “out there” ( Brasil, the west indies, Cuba, Mexico and Africa, southern and west Africa) communities, the things I’ve seen in my work abroad have really changed me forever and burned certain messages into me that come out in my lyrics…some are reflections of what i saw and experienced directly (eg violence in the streets, police corruption, the floor of a foreign jail cell) some reflect peoples stories that i heard while working in the community as an anthropologist studying violence. as bad as things are, people still live such courageous lives of resistance and resilience.kojo j

Capoeira really inspired me to conquer my fear of public speaking  and singing.  The mestres of FICA (Fundação Internacional de Capoeira Angola) have always encouraged everyone to sing out, you know, put the feeling on the outside to generate and cultivate the axe of the roda.  I come from a family of gifted musicians, producers, and singers. I always wanted to make music like I saw my cousins doing in North and South Carolina (see: Lendon James, “Pappy” Mckoy, Gayle Fairley, Reel Mob Raab, Robert Fairley, Jr and sooo many others i haven’t named here) …music that moved and stirred people,…inspired them. ….. growing up on soul, gospel, country, bossa nova, rock, jazz, funk…. the little known truth is, I tried to run from being an artist at first, partly because of the negative stigma put on the artist around me at the time. as a young brother without much apparent support it just seemed like a hard trod to be a musician but still I knew I wanted to be a part of that divine calling, that elite society.

I’ve read that artists and healers feel the peaks and valleys of life more intensely than the average person… there have been when I’ve gone through so much pain it dragged me down. so far down that the music was the only thing that allowed thing that would carry me back to the heights. It got to the point where I had so much to reason about with people out there music was the only thing that allowed me . eventually, I kind of adopted songwriting and performing as a way to communicate what I was seeing and feeling since it allowed me the freedom and opportunity to reach out to so many people.

 


 

Who is Bambu Station?

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Bambú Station Band | bambustationband.com

Virgin Island roots reggae band Bambú Station was founded in 1996 by the impassioned lead singer Jalani Horton. After years of performing live, Bambú Station established its own recording studio and recorded and released its first album ”Congo Moon” (High Rotation Records, 1999). From the album the popular song “Heathen Fun”, was selected for a two-CD remix compilation entitled “Walking on Pennsylvania Avenue”, a major relief effort for children with AIDS in Washington, D.C. (www.opensource.com).

In 2000, Bambú Station independently released the critically acclaimed single “Amadou Diallo” in memory of the New York slained West African immigrant. The band personally presented the single to Diallo’s parents at the 2001 Anniversary of the March on Washington. In May 2002, Bambú Station reached global acclaim with their invigorating compilation “Bambú Station presents: Various Artists – Talkin’ Roots I” (Mt. Nebo Records). This groundbreaking album immediately charted worldwide, generating international praise from music critics and radio DJs, and was selected as “Compilation of the Year 2002” by Ireggae.com and won several music awards.

With the release of their album “One Day” in 2003, The Beat Magazine, Reggae Reviews, Urban Ambience Journal and countless other reviewer’s dubbed Bambú Station’s “One Day” as one of the most significant albums of the modern reggae scene. By the years end, with all the attention garnered,“One Day” was selected as “Album of the Year” by both the DC Annual Reggae Awards and Creation Steppin’ Radio. Additionally, the D.C. Annual Reggae Awards selected “One Day” as “Song of the Year 2003” and Bambú Station as “Producer of the Year 2003.” Fans, writers and industry experts all continue to praise the album as “classic”, “very powerful”, and “one for the ages.“

Since its first tour in July 2004, Bambú Station’s fan base has exploded beyond measure with every album and tour. Their Talkin’ Roots Tour 2004 was the first ever tour of a group of Virgin Island reggae artists on the U.S. mainland. The band also headlined at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, released “Break The Soil,” “Talkin’ Roots II,” “Chant of the Lions I” and toured the U.S. mainland solidifying their soul-stirring brand of music.

Through its Bambú Station Foundation, the band is proactive in efforts to positively impact the lives of families, with a focus on children. In November 2006, the prestigious Strathmore Music Arts Center in Bethesda, MD (www.strathmore.org) selected Bambú Station for its Artist In Residence Program, the first reggae band to be selected.

Bambú Station has since performed throughout South America, Europe, North Africa and the Caribbean and Pacific Islands. In 2012, Bambú Station released “Children of Exodus” and their first music video, “Leaning On Afreeka” in 2013.

In 2011, Bambú Station returned home to the Virgin Islands and opened Griotlife Studio in Rockas City, St. Thomas. Jalani Horton has been producing several projects and artists scheduled for release in 2014 namely, The INNER LIGHT PROJECT featuring Various Artists.

the Bambu Station Co.
P.O. Box 3981, St. Thomas, VI 00803 | 202-321-2263