In honor of #BlackMusicMonth, Dr. Robinson and I wanted to make sure we brought you all another episode of Summertime Conversations on “Feeling Good”: Exploring the Lived Experience of Black Joy!! Our latest episode is a dialogue on Black Music Month as well as a ‘Sonic Curation of Happiness via Black Music’!!
Check it out below…
And if you wanna check out our “Black Joy & Happiness” Soundtrack that was discussed on this episode, check it out below!!
“It’s an artist duty to reflect the times in which we live.”
“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” ~Toni Morrison
Today marks the 156th year since the message of freedom was delivered to those enslaved in Texas, also known as Juneteenth (portmanteau of June and nineteenth)!! A celebration of emancipation, liberation, and Black Joy!!
And what is Juneteenth? Juneteenth refers to June 19th, 1865 the day when Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas to inform the 250,000 enslaved Black people that they were free. Keep in mind the Emancipation Proclamation (which ended slavery) had went into effect January 1st, 1863 (also the start of watch night services), so Texas would not get this memo for almost two and half years later. And people wonder why Black people cannot wait for change! Why we are persistent about consistent upward and forward movement! Why are Black people not quick to trust, because of past failures and screw ups like what happened in Galveston, TX. Nevertheless, the chains are breaking and the truth is being revealed.
In a way there has been this sudden awakening regarding the Juneteenth holiday. Much like how the message of freedom was delayed in its delivery to those enslaved in Texas, one could say there is a delayed recognition (on a larger scale) of the Juneteenth holiday. With all of the the national protests, police violence, and continuous murder of Black and Brown bodies of last year the U.S. would be reminded of past moments of resistance and endurance. This acknowledgement rebirth is what I like to think of as a memory survival. As Isabel Wilkerson writes in her amazing book, The Warmth of Other Suns:The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, “The people from Texas took Juneteenth Day to Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, and other places they went.” And thank goodness the memory of Juneteenth will always be present, because we cannot afford to have any more delays, these are moments that we need right now and always!
So when did I learn about Juneteenth, I remember it being brought up during one of my summer classes as an Upward Bound student, and in passing from one of my aunts who lives in Texas. But I would really learn about Juneteenth while attending Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, GA) and while out grocery shopping and a young man handed me a flyer for a Juneteenth celebration that was set to take place. Outside of the above-mentioned instances, I did not have any previous knowledge. Now I am not surprised by this, nor am I surprised that many other Black folks are only just now aware of what Juneteenth is and its significance. Even though I may not be from Texas, I take Juneteenth as my Independence Day/Emancipation Day, because clearly July 4th is not!!
Juneteenth is not only a day to celebrate, but also another day to inform the masses, continue speaking out on injustices, and always a day to remember! It’s also another excuse for me to celebrate my Blackness and create more ways to express Black joy and agency. This holiday is also an opportunity to instill values of self-improvement, racial uplift, and reclamation of the family unit. These values were personified through religious sermons and the singing of negro spirituals, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, rodeos, and the preservation of slave food traditions and delicacies (ex. BBQ and soul food). Juneteenth is another holiday that allows Black folks to commune and fellowship and just be free with ourselves!! This freedom has been further expressed with the creation of various websites and the Juneteenth flag:
Created in 1997 by activist and founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundation (NJCF) Ben Haith, the flag consists of a star, burst, arc, and the colors red, white, and blue. According to the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)the star is a nod to the Lone Star State (where Juneteenth was first celebrated in 1865), but also stands for the freedom of every Black American in all 50 states, the burst represents an outline surrounding the star meant to reflect a nova— or new star—this represents a new beginning for all, and the arc represents a new horizon, fresh opportunities and promising futures for Black Americans. The colors are also reminiscent of the United States flag, this was intentional to show that the enslaved African Americans and their descendants are also free Americans. Even in our symbols there is always a deep, layered meaning attached.
In 2021, Juneteenth has become more than just a holiday, but in many ways a movement!! Not only are school curriculums slowly changing, but we are also becoming more informed about the holiday through popular media. A few examples include:
High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America [Netflix]: Episode 4, ‘Freedom’
Atlanta (FX Network): Season 1, Episode 9, ‘Juneteenth’ [Television]
Black-ish (ABC): Season 4, Episode 1, ‘Juneteenth’ [Television]
And as of 2020, according to the Congressional Research Service all states, except Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota, recognize/celebrate Juneteenth in some sort of fashion. This personally became significant for me because upon moving to Virginia on last year Juneteenth became a permanent statewide holiday (following in the footsteps of Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania). The fact that Virginia made this a statewide holiday is truly significant considering the states past history and the fact that the state is known as being the capital of the Confederacy…Interesting how tides are beginning to change!!
In the end when I think about Juneteenth I am optimistic…I am hopeful…I am excited. Optimistic that one day it will become a national holiday, and that it will truly get the recognition that it deserves. Juneteenth is a holiday even worthy of being acknowledged internationally. Hopeful that the celebration of this holiday is not just for a moment or season, but for an infinity of lifetimes. Excited because with each passing day more and more people are learning about the importance and significance of Juneteenth!! Even if this is your first year, make sure it is not your last!!
And just in case you need a few references for later reading and viewing check out the following link!!
“Outkast and the Rise of the Hip-Hop South” (Book Review)*
“The South got something to say!” This call to arms from Outkast member André Benjamin (better known as André 3000) best summarizes the frustration, the need to self-validate, and the opportunity to make Outkast’s presence known within the hip-hop landscape and the South. These words also resonate as a proclamation of resilience as well as another approach to how we understand the southern narrative.
In Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip-Hop South, African American literature and southern hip-hop scholar Regina N. Bradley offers an intersectional examination of the contemporary southern Black and hip-hop identity via the Atlanta hip-hop rap duo Outkast. Bradley centers the musical and cultural work of Outkast (an acronym for “Operating under the Krooked American System Too Long”)** and highlights their relevance to hip-hop and Southern (specifically Atlanta) culture. Coming from a post-Civil Rights lens, Bradley provides a multi-layered approach to the various southern experiences of obtaining the American Dream while Black.
As a southern text, Chronicling Stankonia blends music, literature, film, and southern history while simultaneously giving voice to the Black American South and a musical culture that has often been ignored and sidelined by Northern/East Coast contemporaries. Additionally, Bradley makes southern Black musical storytelling very legible by weaving in her own personal narratives as well as using Outkast as a focal point.
Bradley’s introduction, “The Mountaintop Ain’t Flat,” is a personal introduction to her background as a product of the American South. More specifically, her entry point to southern hip-hop via Outkast suggests another entry point for how we examine American southern hip hop beyond just being culture producers. Influenced by such post-Civil Rights Black cultural texts as Nelson George’s Post-Soul Nation, Mark Anthony Neal’s Soul Babies, and Zandria Robinson’s This Ain’t Chicago, Bradley inserts a specific southern experience, which had not been done previously. Also, through her personal interests and professional engagement with Outkast, Bradley acknowledges how they function as architects of the Atlanta hip-hop scene by using rap as a tool of “signifying their existence as young Black men” along with how they push against the dominant hip-hop scripts (p. 7). As Black southerners, Outkast redefine what it means to be Black and southern.
In the first chapter, “The Demo Tape Ain’t Nobody Wanna,” Bradley further argues why Outkast should be taken seriously academically, socially, musically, culturally, and globally. As contemporary post-Civil Rights icons, Bradley engages with Outkast’s unapologetic nature to contribute regular sonic commentary on the South, the nation, Black manhood, class, socioeconomic status, and racial displacement. Through Black futuristic imaginings of the hip-hop South, Outkast’s earlier semi-autobiographical work Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994) followed by ATLiens (1996), Bradley examines their ability to be metaphorical wordsmiths and lyricists who resituate the gaze on how the Black south is perceived and acknowledged. Furthermore, their lyrics create a space to make certain communities (local and regional) that have been marginalized feel visible and seen.
In the second and third chapters, Bradley incorporates the blending of literature, film, and television with hip-hop to discuss storytelling, hip-hop aesthetics, and the preservation of southern culture and traditions. Chapter 2, “Spelling Out the Work,” reflects on Kiese Laymon’s book, Long Division (2013), and the complexity of southern Black culture. Both Outkast’s and Laymon’s ability to not sanitize trauma and southern Black culture and how they exist in the past, present, and future speaks to how they both use hip-hop aesthetics as a form of storytelling to connect readers to universal truths about ourselves that transcend generations. Drawing on Mississippi’s history of trauma and racial terror, Bradley brings Laymon’s work into the discussion of southern Black culture and how he also features Outkast’s 1998 track “Aquemini” in the context of the Mississippi Freedom Summer and Hurricane Katrina. Through Laymon’s text, Bradley also examines the legitimacy of hip-hop masculinity, acknowledging the multiple southern Black experiences and even tapping into the need to center southern Black women’s and girl’s experiences. Chapter 3, “Reimagining Slavery in the Hip Hop Imagination,” takes a similar approach to explore storytelling with alternate realities through the relationship of hip-hop aesthetics, the American South, collective memory, and slavery. This reimagining of slavery in hip-hop imagination troubles the idea of what slavery looks like in popular culture. Here, Bradley explores the blending of sonic hip-hop sounds with southern slave narrative visuals such as Kanye West in the opening scene of the WGN series Underground and Tupac Shakur and Rick Ross in the 2012 film Django Unchained. From these relational interpretations, Bradley argues that each of the above sonically and visually reclaim a southern Black identity while remaking the plantation and slave narrative.
The final chapter, “Still Ain’t Forgave Myself,” questions the southern hip-hop space via the lens of “the trap” through the sonic sounds of Clifford “T.I.” Harris and Mississippi author Jesmyn Ward’s books, Where the Line Bleeds and Men We Reaped. T.I.’s lyrics and complicated personal and rap life coupled with Ward’s narration of socioeconomic disparities speak to the pressures of hypervisibility and the consequences attached. Like Laymon, Bradley points out the way Ward weaves the experiences of Black men and boys and southern hip hop as a “unifying thread.” Ultimately, both works as described by Bradley, also situate “the trap” as a space for southern Black men to grieve, to mourn, and to be legible.
Bradley argues that the South, much like Blackness, is not monolithic and it should be read the same way. Chronicling Stankonia serves as a successful investigation on how and why we should expand our thoughts about how southern Blackness and hip-hop operate. She not only takes a deep dive into Outkast and southern hip-hop but manages to celebrate their longevity and create larger conversations surrounding Black masculinity, regional legacies, and identity formations/politics. Bradley’s ability to go back and forth between her own personal/social encounters and intellectual experiences provides a captivating example of what it means to be a fan-scholar.
Invincible is the new Amazon Prime video animated television series based on the comics written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Tyan Ottely. This first season took the internet by storm and with season two and three being shortly announced after the release of the first season. The bigger question I want to tackle is, why is it so good? What drew people to this seemingly regular animated show about superheroes?
The latter question is definitely answered in the first episode. After seeing “Omni Man” who we think is the regular good guy type, we see him brutally kill the “Guardians of the Globe,” or this universe’s version of the “Avengers/Justice League.”
With that huge scene being in the first episode it draws the viewer into the show even more. This is not your typical superhero animated show. The hero being the villain all along and revealed in the first episode gives the viewer a sense of something new that has not been done before. I know for me I always find the “superhero being the villain” trope very interesting. Something about things being not as they seem are very unpredictable and that’s what makes this show so unique and interesting.
Along with an intriguing plot, the series also includes a star studded cast with Steven Yeun voicing “Mark”, Sandra Oh voicing “Debbie”, and J.K. Simmons voicing “Omni Man.” When it is all said and done, it’s really hard not to enjoy the show! If the first season taught us anything it is that anything can happen and I’m excited to see where they take Mark’s character in the future. I’m also excited to see what happens when Omni Man comes back.
Summer is right around the corner, and what better time than now to get your summer reading list in order! A few of these are on my list and purchased, patiently awaiting for the pages to be flipped! So go ahead, get your lawn chair, sunglasses, SPF, beach towel, drink of choice, or whatever you need to get into the mood!!
Check out this month’s recommendations!! Maybe you will pick one, two, three, or all of them!!
A Chorus Rises ~Bethany C. Morrow
Ace of Spades: How Do You Stop An Unknown Enemy? ~Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
When Life Gives You Mangoes ~Kereen Getten
Bamboozled by Jesus: How God Tricked Me into the Life of My Dreams ~Yvonne Orji
Punch Me Up To The Gods: A Memoir ~Brian Broome
Remember you can always go back and check out the previous month’s recommendations in the “Resource” section of the website!!
Birds flying high, you know how I feel Sun in the sky, you know how I feel Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn It’s a new day It’s a new life for me, ooh And I’m feeling good
‘Feelin’ Good’ ~Nina Simone
Hello!! Hello!! How are you feeling my friends?! Like Nina Simone, I’m feelin’ good and can’t wait for summer to get here!!
Summertime is definitely one of my favorite seasons, partly due to my Birthday [Leo in the House!!], the weather is amazing, and the fact that there is so much happening on a day-to-day basis! Well I got something for you to add to your summertime fun! Dr. Kaniqua Robinson and I are linking back up for some summertime conversations. If you have tuned into our video podcast, Conversations with Beloved and Kindred then you already have a sneak peek into what is to come!!
For the month of June, Auburn Avenue Research Library will host the limited series Summertime Conversations on “Feelin’ Good”: Exploring the Lived Experience of Black Joy!! Inspired by Nina Simone’s 1965 classic song “Feelin’ Good”, Summertime Conversations on “Feelin’ Good” is a freeform dialogue that foregrounds how people of African descent create communal agency and collective resilience via the cultivation of joy. Check out what is in store below:
June 16th-Juneteenth Why Our Day of Jubilation Matters: In recognition of Juneteenth (2021), this discussion will examine the history and contemporary relevance of the Juneteenth holiday as a curated expression of Black joy and agency. Juneteenth is an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, which has been celebrated by African Americans since the late 1800s.
June 23rd-Sonic Curation of Happiness via Black Music: In recognition of Black Music Month (June), this discussion will explore the songs and singers/musicians that contribute to the communal expression of collective Black joy and happiness soundtrack.