Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saul Williams writes for Essence Magazine...

As an artist and alumnus of the historically Black male institution, Morehouse College, I was dismayed, ‘though not surprised, to learn of their recent decision to ban cross-dressing on their campus, along with do-rags, sagging pants, and headwear (grills?), as part of it’s new ‘dress code’. Morehouse is a private institution that has worked tirelessly at uplifting the image and esteem of African-American men for generations and thus has every right to enforce the codes of conduct and expression that it sees as beneficial to its’ student body, yet it’s conservative/traditionalist ideology is sometimes at odds with the progressive awareness that it would seemingly hope to instill, or even more importantly, nurture in it’s students. Furthermore, it’s stride to maintain a highbrow mystique seems to lie solely in its preparation of young men to enter the Fortune 500 or some ministerial fellowship, with little and waning interests in the arts or the importance of creative expression.

My first day at Morehouse was the last day I combed my hair. I couldn’t wait to twist and lock what my father had insisted I comb, while sleeping in his house. I knew that my time away from church and home was specially suited to be just that: My time. And I planned to use it wisely to express and explore all that I was on the verge of discovering. Here was where I ‘d be given the space and, perhaps, the inspiration to question aspects of my upbringing, harness new disciplines, pursue my passions, and, quite simply, mature. I didn’t find it particularly bothersome when, during that first week, my freshman brothers and I were told, “Morehouse men do not wear locks”, that I’d have to cut my hair to sing in their prestigious Glee Club (this about the same time that my father told me I should cut my hair to be in my sisters wedding), and that, although I would declare myself a philosophy and drama major at Morehouse, I would have to take all of my drama classes at another historically Black institution, Spelman College, across the street, because Morehouse (although it offered the major in it’s course book) had no drama department of it’s own.

No drama, no dreadlocks, did little to curb my enthusiasm or stop me and other classmates from expressing new growth through hair and hip. Young men going to school to find themselves, who, in turn, find themselves suppressed by the short-sighted mandates of an authority that has a simple task of nurturing rather than negating, will simply blossom despite rather than because of their administrative elders. And, although being pulled aside by a school dean and asked how we expected to fair at a job interview might officially intimidate some, for others, like myself, it simply confirmed that they were old school and had not yet come to accept the world that we were crafting. This was not new news. We had all grown up with parents who questioned our musical taste and renderings reflected through fashion and slang. A confidence and swagger that simply didn’t exist in the era of our elders defined our generation, so we were used to explaining La Di Da Di to frowning grandparents and professors.

I, personally, had no problem leaving my all-male campus to enter the all female institution across the street for drama classes. It was on Spelman’s campus that I acted, danced, recited poems, added formative layers to my creative process, and even received compliments on my hair. While Morehouse in both real and symbolic ways represented more and more of the world I had gone to college to escape; a world where I saw hypocrisy and tradition intertwined, then neatly placed under the bureaucratic robe of authority.

The fact that my college seemed unprepared for me and the generation of artists that I've grown to be a part of, says a lot about the social climate that followed my graduation. A time when Hip Hop aligned itself with bankers and gangsters and would be artists found greater merit in referring to themselves as businessmen than as artists. The transformative power of art was harnessed and used to knock down the walls of the music, fashion, and film industries, while the art itself suffered. Music no longer pushed against the status quo, rather, it upheld it. Movies amounted to soup’d up church plays. Public schools lost their music and art programs. Colleges and universities, such as Morehouse, found bank and business CEO’s to manage their affairs and became little more than product assembly lines turning out the latest in a conservative male model that simply saw art as escape.

Freedom of expression is Art Appreciation 101 and a tenant deeply rooted in American democracy. The fight for those freedoms has placed American arts and artists in a category all their own. The role that art plays in shaping American society is unparalleled and quite often unpredictable. And the role that African American artists play and have played in defining exactly what American art is, is undeniable. These lessons, which for me, came as a male visitor on Spelman’s all female campus serves as the basis of the sort of dialogue that has all but skipped a generation born after the Black Arts Movement.

So what happens when prestigious institutions, like Morehouse, overlook the value of expression and instead choose to align themselves with the merits of an elite business school? And what do the cross-dressing students that were recently made to change clothes by Morehouse’s administration have to do with my wild hair and me? Everything. Until these institutions acknowledge the inseparable links between freedom and expression, the same forces that suppress free thought and progressive change will suppress art and the evolving consciousness surrounding it. And when our universities align themselves with forces that suppress free thought and progressive change, they get more like churches and less like schools.

All this to say: I decided to wear a skirt to my alma mater, last week, and they weren’t too happy about it. Diligently Southern in its hospitality, the administration congratulated me on my merits and asked me kindly to leave its premises. They said that they had to enforce their new dress code on campus so that their students would follow suit. As I was leaving, an openly gay student government member approached me in a suit. He told me that he exemplified how a Morehouse man should dress because he was prepared. “Prepared for what?” I asked. “Prepared in case someone wanted to interview me for a job.” he said. Before speaking he had signed the waiver that the cameraman beside me was holding. He knew he was being filmed as part of a documentary that Afro Punk was making as we crossed the country. “Perfect!” I said. “You get the job.”

c. Saul Williams

Monday, November 16, 2009

Random free rite

As of late, I have been writing endlessly/am burdened by the games my mind plays with words/with ideas. I have let my hands loose on the page/I find myself quoting scripture again, returning to the gospel of my childhood/the other day I began a novel/felt the sentences cowering like sirens growing into song/there is a ghost that visits me in my dreams and offers me coffee and cigarettes/shows me secret passageways/ I am recognizing my strange source of freedom/how it can anger and confuse/makes it impossible for anyone to ever control a woman so in love with God/so amazed by the intricacy of our concentrated love, the construction of our existence/ I've been writing useless poems about our suffering, our loss of love which confronts our suffering/I have been creating magic, haunting these poems with the worship of love/I am no longer disappointed but remembering my own embrace/I store my laughter all around my home/in cabinets, on shelves, in the shower faucet, underneath the staircase, in the arch of my roof/ I'm not sure if people are intrinsically good or bad, am neither here nor there in my understanding of others/I am trusting that I know nothing and yet I know everything/I am okay with being a woman, both emotion and mind/I no longer fear the hysteria of our honesty, am disgusted by those who mock our fountain of intelligence/but I am a lover of men most honest with themselves, therein with us, those most intent on loving in spite of suffering and insecurity/I have always been a child most intrigued by broken things/and my poems are only dark to people that hide themselves in shadows and night/call my technique feeling and emotion/call my genre spirit and soul/ but remember me a woman who smiled/it is because I have spent time with my tears that I most love the way the corners of my mouth spread in joy, how the dimples deepen and sink into my cheeks/some days I am annoyed by the ramble of my yelling giggle but boy, is that girl beautiful when she laughs/more and more as I am writing, I learn that God is teaching me how to navigate this world of boxes and fear, the woman I am learning to become/surely I have never met a woman like the one I believe I am and will become but I have found her in the shadows of other women/I am trying to find an effective mode of communicating my strangeness/ but trust that I will be understood/i want to be articulate and strong but not at the expense of my need for support and tenderness/simply because I am wonderful in my struggle does not deny the mystery in my fragility/ if God is change than I know holy like a tornado narrative/somethings are absolute, should be less frightening than we make them/ I rather a more profound life but it is never in opposition to the comedy of our paradox/the writing is helping make sense of the horror/ it is the horror of our self affliction, of our loss and our undeniable longing/here is a woman transformed by her process and learning to be honest, no matter how brutal, no matter the revelation.....

Aja monet

(i am experimenting on a new media approach to spoken and written word for an independent project I am working on in my masters program here in chicago. being that we are working on bridging the gap between the spoken and written fields, i am now planning to provide audio of me reading all and any of my written work on this blog. and would appreciate if people could perhaps comment on what the audio does that the words dont and vice versa. hopefully that is clear. feel free to speak freely and openly always.)

random free rite 11_16 by aja_monet

Thursday, November 12, 2009

i think robyn is so flyy...

share a poem

Continual Conversation With A Silent Man
by Wallace Stevens

The old brown hen and the old blue sky,
Between the two we live and die--
The broken cartwheel on the hill.

As if, in the presence of the sea,
We dried our nets and mended sail
And talked of never-ending things,

Of the never-ending storm of will,
One will and many wills, and the wind,
Of many meanings in the leaves,

Brought down to one below the eaves,
Link, of that tempest, to the farm,
The chain of the turquoise hen and sky

And the wheel that broke as the cart went by.
It is not a voice that is under the eaves.
It is not speech, the sound we hear

In this conversation, but the sound
Of things and their motion: the other man,
A turquoise monster moving round.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


Rihanna proved to be incredible in this interview on 20/20. I admire her confidence, her discernment, and her compassion....

Monday, November 02, 2009

i performed in Bermuda!!

Okay, so around a little less than a month ago, I got the incredible opportunity to perform in Bermuda, thanks to an incredible Bermudian fan of my work, ms. Yesha. She was a complete sweetheart and took care of everything while I was out there in Bermuda. She also booked friends; Shanelle Gabriel, Rafael Casal, Mayda del valle, and Jason Reynolds. The entire experience was pretty incredible and I really enjoyed myself. Shanelle kept a video camera with her the whole time and put together some footage so I am going to post that along with some photos from the trip. Shout out to all my Bermudian friends and fans! You guys truly know how to treat a lady... (fyi thanks to shanelle I plan to get my video blogging game up. keep posted for those soon) all my love, aja


Sunday, November 01, 2009

share a poem

Do Not Ask Me
by Pablo Neruda

Some people ask me that human affairs
with names, surnames and laments
not be dealt with in the pages of my books,
not to give them space in my verses:
they say poetry died here,
some say I should not do it:
the truth is I do not want to please them.
I greet them, I tip my hat to them,
and I leave them voyaging in Parnassus
like happy rats in cheese.
I belong to another category,
I am only a man of flesh and bones,
therefore if they beat my brother
I defend him with what I have in hand
and each one of my lines carries
the threat of gunpowder or steel,
that will fall over the inhuman,
over the cruel and over the arrogant.
But the punishment of my furious peace
menaces neither the poor nor the good:
with my lamp I search for those who fall:
I soothe and close their wounds:
these are the chores of the poet
of the aviator and of the stonecutter:
we should do something on this earth
because we were born on this planet
and we must arrange man’s society
because we are neither birds nor dogs.
And so, if when I attack what I hate,
or when I sing to those I love,
poetry wants to abandon
the hopes of my manifesto,
I’ll follow the letter of my law
accumulating stars and armaments
and in my steadfast duty to America
one more rose does not matter:
I have a pact of love with beauty:
I have a pact of blood with my people.