Happy New Calendar Year. I still follow the seasons and consider Spring Solstice my New Year, and I always appreciate a new calendar year for fresh starts. I'm going to blog this year. I feel the need to write and express myself, and social media platforms just ain't my flow. if it wasn't for the Bay Area Hip Hop Archives and the need for visibility on IG, you'd never see me. I come from a different generation and time. I remember when I used to tell my grandparents about the newest this, or the latest that, and how they would smile, nod their head, and stay comfortable in their lane with what they knew, and didn't want to keep up. I understand it more on the other side of 50.
Next week, my lastest curatorial moves, Each One Teach One- The History of the Oakland Community School of the Black Panther Party of Oakland opens. It's my first exhibit that will live on the walls for a whole year. Today I said to myself, the posters from the exhibits I've curated are my "platinum plaques." I evolved into a museum curator, and this one hits deep in the heart because of the photography of Donald Cunningham capturing Black children at the model school, and he saved the photos! A true archiving hero. The photos, like all of my curatorial explorations, spoke to me. The word curate means to "care" and I did my best to care for the photos and the narrative in the limited space, time and resources allotted.
It's also still tough in these moments because for my whole life, special moments like this were always started and concluded with two phone calls to my Dad and my Uncle. Yes I pour libation and speak to them as ancestors, but the human-physical quiet of loss is still, loud. I know they are proud and their spirits will be in the room. I just wish they were here.
I enjoy curation as much as music creativity. And, I'm starting to understand my gifts and skills in this space. I can see an exhibit before it's done. It's like as soon as I see the space, and understand the narrative, I see the manifestation before it happens. The last exhibit I did it was all me, from installation to curation. This time, I had an exhibit designer, Auburn, and I have to shout her out because she was truly a champion in making the ideas look fresh on the walls.
I am enjoying this evolution of myself, and I also am learning that when an exhibit is up and completed, outside of a curator talk, I really want to fade in the background and let the exhibit speak. And on this one, Black children, Black teachers, Black community supporters of the school speak volumes.
Now, in the absence of family here to be with me in this moment, I'm trying to learn to pat myself on the back, be present, and give thanks. I've abandoned the word proud and pride because those things are connected to ego. It's really all praises to God for allowing me the opportunity to be a conduit and a vessel to tell this narrative.
PEACE OUT- J
Thoughts on curation of the oakland community school
Photograph by Donald Cunningham
1.11.24 is the new moon. It's also a time when the number one is dominate in the Gregorian calendar in the first month of the year. This is a time to recognize our connection to nature, our inner power, and divine timing to plan, set intentions and move from inward outward. I have to thank Sis Zakiyah Harris of Sh8shifters who brought a good word for us all to heed.
It dawned on me today while walking in Emeryville that this is exhibition #5. Respect at OMCA, Soul of a Nation at deYoung, The Intersection between Hip Hop Culture and Education, The Legacy of Marin City, and now Each One Teach One- The Oakland Community School.
Pivoting, evolving, and expanding is a deep process. It begins with a thought. I remember in 2009 when I did my first curation at MOCA Cleveland, and how it would be 6 years before I returned to the idea of museum curation. And, here I am. I walked through the exhibit today, truly honored to see Black faces that look like me on the walls. For the Black Panther Party, it situates a new conversation because this is not the beret wearing, black fist raising, fighting police Panthers, this is educating children, young children, with passion and care. It's the best thing I think the Panthers did. And, in truth, it's less about them, and more about the spirit in which they cared and educated children.
As I looked at the content, I realized its 100% solution based, You could be a parent, a caregiver of children in any capacity and immediately point to things that can be done NOW, and have a positive effect.
I learned something about myself in this process as well curating and working with other people. I was forced to exercise a new level of patience and collaboration, which is sometimes uncomfortable because I'm used to just doing things myself. This time, out of this process I grew. I feel my own maturity, even when the business side of things was a little funky. Instead of letting it effect the goal, I was able to be firm, and clear, but not get pissed off and miss out on the greatness that is this exhibit.
And yes while I walked today I thought about my Dad and uncle. A lot. And, as I walked back towards my car looking at the green hills of California, I realize, most of my adult life has been here. Once again, I've done something I consider significant. My good friend Pendarvis from KQED texted me the article he wrote for the exhibit while I was walking. As I was reflecting on my life, the link to the article wasn't just another thing from the press, it's an artifact and receipt that I was here, and that I didn't just do something for myself, but for the community.
And, I started initial conversations on the next curatorial move I want to make and checked out the possible space and collaborators. It's like you have to be present and take it all in, think about the past and how far you've come, and keep it moving, all at the same time. Today I felt like I mastered that notion. And that 5 mile walk wore me out. Rest. Peace OUT
Smiling Through It
Late night or early morning, depending on how you see 3:15am. I know I'm not the only creative who gets restless at times. Often I may even ask myself or the universe, why am I up? Sometimes I write. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I am just up and do nothing. Sometimes I'm fighting worry about things that I want to be better, handled, or in more alignment.
I've had a good week on this next phase of my life's journey, securing my first international exhibit in Barbados in 2025. It's deep to even see this in writing especially the fact that its one year and a few months from now. My foresight can see this far and even farther ahead when I really concentrate and zone in, but it's normally not as clear as a date and location. It's inspiring, and it makes me want to will the good energy that is manifesting my next curatorial moves into other areas of my life that are not as smooth.
When I see this photo it reminds me to smile through it all. When this photo was taken, I was in my happy place. Back stage at Wembly Area about to rock 30,000 people on the Gods of Rap tour in 2019. Ah, the good ole days. No one knew all of the life experiences it took for me to be there, and in the presence of Hip Hop giants I didn't show it. But I went through a lot to be in this space and smiling.
I challenge myself everyday to smile at myself in the mirror as a form of practice. Even when I feel like I've had a less than favorable day. Just as rain clouds pour rain, then subside to the sunshine, this is how Im learning to treat the days, and late nights or early mornings when I have things on my mind about this thing called life.
I think about Scarface and the song "Smile." It was a tribute to the loss of Tupac. It's an incredibly touching song slash eulogy at a time when it was hard for the Hip Hop community to smile. Facemob was brilliant to write that song.
So I take that lesson as I quiet my mind and thoughts and be ok with the present moment. Yes I have some big things on my mind about life, connectivity or lack thereof to family, and wanting to see the light at the end of the tunnel of challenging things. And, I'm reminded by this photo to smile through it all. It does help as I keep moving, forward.- J
Reality- Key Word REAL
Goodbye January. The first month of the year. Two months closer to my real New Year which is Spring Solstice. This month has been one of deep thinking, planning, shedding, and welcoming in new energy into my circumference.
Also, it's been a month where I went back to the beginning of my California journey. I came out here wide open, with a book of rhymes and a heart full of dreams to make something of myself.
September 24, 2002 is my official move date to the west coast. The Bay, and Oakland was so different then. I was different then. I miss that innocence of going to places and spaces catching the cultural and community vibe of the people and happenings, and feeling like I was joining a community who reflected what I wanted to be around.
And my focus was literally rapping and writing each week to sustain myself, and being bold enough to dream out loud with other dreamers and cultural production workers who were manifesting music, art, dance, political stances and activations.
22 years later, Oakland, and the Bay feel really different. And I've been able to discern that 95% of the people I met over 20 years ago truly have either changed, or were always hollow, I just didn't have the benefit of experience to know. The scene and space I saw 20 years ago where I knew my music and performance had a place to thrive and grow feels non existent today. And I've changed too. It used to be all about the people and bending corners to be in various hoods, ciphers and happenings. Now, my community is nature, water, trees, birds, and the very few people that have held solid over the years. I can count on one hand and not use all my fingers.
As my Dad would say- "so it go." As February approaches and I take the creative energy to make new music, I have a few lectures this month, and a new exploration that could be positively life changing, I am encouraged. Black History Month matters to me, because I always use it as a time to illuminate my own Blackness and shine light in spaces where we are not seen enough. And, as I look back over my career as a musician, February is always a time of creation.
Looking at this photograph of me performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio reminds me that yes, I've evolved, but the root of my evolution comes from rocking stages and writing rhymes.
And it don't stop....
Black Student Union University of california monterey campus
Making Black History. Today I had the pleasure to speak with about a dozen students at UC Monterey Campus Black Student Union for Black History Month 2024. I said I would only do one curatorial talk about the Each One Teach One exhibit, and I wanted it to be with young people who didn't know the history. Mission accomplished. I also wanted to talk a little about the Bay Area Hip Hop Archives to inspire a generation around preservation. It was truly a great time. They were engaging, interested, and I brought up the need for unity and legacy that resonated with everyone in the room. I was never a college student for any long period of time. But the short spats I had in community college, there was always someone who came to the campus on February for Black History Month to do a talk of some kind. Now, I'm the OG in the room giving lessons, history and motivating young people to see the best in themselves and to see a Black man taking the time out to treat them with love, respect and encouragement. There's not 200 total Black students on campus. It was their largest event for February, which will probably be eclipsed tomorrow when they go to see the Bob Marley movie. Whenever I have an opportunity to do something like this, as much as I want to inspire, I always leave inspired and in my divine element of my purpose. Today mattered. And we made history. Black history is not always about looking back, sometimes its about being present and making a memory that young people will carry on for the rest of their lives, rooted in Blackness. And today, we did that. Salute to all the students. Peace -J