Keorapetse Kgositsile on Exile, Art, and Freedom: “What I write defines who I am”
By Alice Kim, Editor
Keorapetse Kgositsile, a world-renowned South African poet and activist, began his writing career as a journalist for the newspaper, New Age, a leading voice in the struggle against apartheid published from Johannesburg. From 1962 to 1975, he lived in exile in the United States during which time he earned an MFA in poetry from Columbia University and published his first collection of poems, Spirits Unchained, as well as another influential collection, My Name is Afrika. He became established as a poet in the Black Arts Movement, both influencing the movement and being influenced by it. From exile, he later founded the African National Congress’ Departments of Education and Arts and Culture. For years, his work was banned in apartheid South Africa. He returned to his homeland after the fall of apartheid and was inaugurated as South Africa’s National Poet Laureate in 2006.
I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing the South African Poet Laureate last month at the Without Borders conference hosted by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. His love of language, his no-nonsense approach to politics, and his big heart were easy to see. Here, Keorapetse Kgositsile shares his unabashed insights on exile, art and freedom.
Alice Kim: All these years, you’ve remained both a writer and a political activist. I’d love for you to talk about the relationship between art and activism, but first, why do you write? Continue reading →
Comments on Keorapetse Kgositsile on Exile, Art, and Freedom: “What I write defines who I am”
Hip-hop and Ferguson: Black Rage, Don’t Shoot, Be Free
By Stephanie Shonekan
In recent years, there has been a growing fear among some black music scholars, critics, practitioners, and partakers that its power as a significant expressive outlet for the community has been eroded. Commercialization, globalization, capitalism, media mania, and a voracious music industry have resulted in a trend that glorifies “booties,” “bling,” “beef,” and “Benjamins.”
From its roots in West Africa, art and music have always been an integral part of black life. Over time, wherever the Diaspora spread, the music remained functional, responding to the needs of the people to tell stories, recite histories, complement worship, aid work and labor, enhance celebration, and urge action against the evolving manifestations of oppression and racism.
African American artists like Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, Miles Davis, James Brown, and Marvin Gaye created compelling beautiful music that commented on the experience of blackness in a tense racialized environment. From the late 1970s and into the 1990s hip hop artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy, Eric B and Rakim, NWA, Black Star, and Dead Prez continued the tradition. Continue reading →
Comments on Hip-hop and Ferguson: Black Rage, Don’t Shoot, Be Free
Cities In Revolt: Detroit
By Shea Howell
Shea Howell, an educator, activist and founding member of the Boggs Center, shares her remarks from a plenary session at the recently convened With/Out – ¿Borders? conference hosted by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College. This is the first in a three-part series on “Cities in Revolt.”
The battle for the kind of country we are becoming is being fought in our cities. Cities, especially those shaped in the traditions of African American and progressive struggles, are under assault. Corporate forces committed to the protection of the power and privilege of an increasingly smaller, whiter, and wealthier elite are attacking cities in an effort to turn them into centers of profit and play.
Central to this attack is the displacement and removal of people who have been in the forefront of developing new ways of living in places long abandoned by capital. Now, as resources are becoming increasingly scarce, finance capital is finding new ways to extract wealth from urban centers. Continue reading →
Comments on Cities In Revolt: Detroit