Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

Hawaiian Soul

…by the Peter Moon Band is playing on the iPod. It’s the first day of this book’s life, and wow, what a way to be born. Tonight, there will be a mention during MTV’s Direct Effect of the book along with Martha Cooper and Akim Walta’s superb Hip-Hop Files. It’s a pretty heady, and humbling thing.

Speaking of humbling, did a great interview roundtable today with Farai Chideya, DJ Kool Herc, Traci Bartlow and William Randolph of the Black Resurgents. Farai wanted to do something and it seemed natural to focus on the links between the Bronx and Oakland street culture in the 70s.

The story of the Black Resurgents is one that falls into the “half that have never been told”. Traci is an amazing dancer, master teacher, and choreographer from East Oakland, and through her mighty efforts at the Eastside Arts Alliance, she has been schooling and introducing kids in the neighborhood to the links between hip-hop and the Afrodiasporic dances from West Africa to the Harlem Renaissance to the “boogaloo” style of East Oakland. I saw a preview of her video where the Black Resurgents were performing in 1972, and it’s a blueprint for all the pop-locking and strutting styles that come out of the west coast a decade later.

William talked about how the Black Resurgents started in the streets of East Oakland in 1971, and would perform at Black Panther rallies, school dances, and parties around the way. They were as big a draw as the funk bands that played there. To see the video, you would know exactly why. These days, he’s a preacher and a contractor and he’s still out there showing new generations how it’s done.

Here are the kinds of stories that get me fired up. So much of my book is about the generation gap, but the fact is that there are continuities that people like William and DJ Kool Herc bridge. And that bridge goes all the way back past the Middle Passage. As people growing up in America, we focus a lot on the end product–what gets on CD, on TV, in the magazines or in the movies–but the real deal is happening at the local level, everyday. It kills any premature cynicism, any blank negativism you’re bound to acquire in the course of a mediated life.

Props to Farai for shining the light, and much love to Traci, William and Herc.

posted by @ 5:10 pm | 1 Comment

One Response to “Hawaiian Soul”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Jeff, I have no idea who you are but a student told me I should read your blog and I found a reference to Hawaiian Soul, a song that always makes me cry, so I checked it out. I see that you cite me, so I guess I’m not too old to be here. Do you know the story behind the song? It’s about an anti-military Native Hawaiian struggle and an amazing musician activist who gave his life for that struggle. From what I see here you work in the same tradition. All the best to you. Aunty Mari

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