Link Sharing: Women’s Work

I’m taking a break from Twitter and Facebook. It’s not my first break but this is the first time I’m feeling antsy about not being able to shoot links out into the ether.

So, check it:

Elizabeth Newton has this excellent essay in the latest issue of The New Inquiry on the erasure of women’s work, specifically within Jazz and other music communities. “Can She Dig It” is a fairly quick read with some nice prose, thoughtful articulation, and disturbing facts. For instance, “Sun Ra had excluded Carla Bley, a pianist and composer in his circle, from his Jazz Composer’s Guild—a society Bley helped found. Citing sailor lore, Sun Ra claimed it was bad luck to bring a woman aboard the ship.”

These days I’m always raging about the small (and large) ways I see women’s work being dismissed and completely erased. My mother keeps warning me that it’s not good for my heart so I’m always looking for nods that let me know I’m not alone in my rage. Enter my favorite part of Newton’s essay:

Just last month I fleetingly considered smashing my computer, mining my hard drive for its mineral contents, scraping the tantalum and coltan into vials with which to poison every man who has ever made me compromise.

But to get back to the center (if there is such a thing)
This conversation between Darian Harvin and Danyel Smith is so good. There’s some good stuff in there about dating and about career. Danyel Smith is in that Black female hip hop writer canon (with the likes of dream hampton, Joan Morgan, …). I’m not super familiar with her writing (though this on Bobbi Kristina is excellent) but this conversation makes me want to have a mentor like her (and to be a mentor like her). I’ve also TBR’d her forthcoming book on black women in pop music.

Sometimes I daydream about “making it” as a writer and whenever an interviewer asks me what made me want to be a writer, I say “ZZ Packer’s author photo.” Yeah, that one. The side ponytail. The eyebrows. This is seriously my favorite author photo. Also Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is one of my favorites. I tend to say I don’t have favorite books but DCE is one I revisit for enjoyment and as guidance with my own writing. In any case I’m always looking for news about Packer. Somehow I missed this from earlier this year. The profile is a bit generic (Packer’s path to writing, her current project, just enough personal information to make her success seem attainable, and some advice to writers) but it’s still nice to read.

Speaking of writing advice, this is a good reminder from NK Jemisin:

And if it helps, remember: this is what makes you a writer. Yes, this. The sick feeling in your stomach, the weariness you feel, the utter conviction that you are the Worst and your novel is the Worst and everything is awful. This is how writers feel sometimes.

Alright, that’s it for now.

Best Decisions of the Week (art finds for Jan 12 – Jan 17)

A spin-off of my web finds.


On Thursday, I went to see ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’. Given who’s been hyping the film, I was pretty ambivalent about seeing it. (I wish I could remember at what point VICE put a bad taste in my mouth).

It turned out to be a good decision, maybe even the best decision of 2015 so far. I’m looking forward to the release of the soundtrack and to seeing the film again. I also kinda want to be a vampire superhero.

Equally important to my desire for vampirehood is that the film pushes me to be a better writer, to be more imaginative, to commit to producing fantastic work that is uniquely me.

A thing that caught my eye before I made the decision to watch the film, the director Ana Lily Amirpour talking about the usefulness of film school:

 I think film school is a tool, and a tool by itself is useless. A tool needs many other things in order for it to have a purpose, it’s there to create something else. There are so many tools. You can watch movies, you can read scripts from your favorite movies, watch bonus features of your favorite directors and see how they do things, get a camera and try filming things, you can travel the world, read books, listen to music. Use everything and anything to put yourself in the place where you feel creative and fascinated by what you’re doing and by life. Films really are about living life, and that part doesn’t happen inside a film school.


An essay by Troy L. Wiggins on being a black expat in Korea. Something about the “bitter expat” was triggering. I’ve been thinking a lot about my most recent trip to Ghana. It was the first time I ventured into the expat community. It can be pretty horrifying. At some point my thoughts should become an essay or a blog.


A major reason for my most recent trip to Ghana was for family but a small part was for a relationship that dissolved months before. Here is something I don’t feel that I can properly articulate: my last relationship was, in part, a search for home/belonging to Ghana. In an interview with BOMB magazine, Maryse Condé said this of her marriages:

The first time I was married to an African, a man from Guinea, and there was a confusion for me between the man and the country behind him. Because Guinea was the first African country to say No! to General DeGaulle, the first African country to take independence in the French-speaking arena. So I confused a man, love, and marriage with making the revolution. Of course, the marriage did not work at all. It was a failure, and we divorced a few years after. So I was already conscious that marriage is an individual matter—only two persons are concerned, and there is no question of putting on the shoulders of the man you are going to marry all your idealistic views about your country, about your cause. I became very wary of that kind of confusion. So when I met Richard, I was already informed of the mistake I could make. But it was difficult for a politically minded person to pay attention to a white man. For me, he belonged to the enemy, and moreover, I had four children from my first marriage. For them, it was completely impossible to have a white man for a stepdaddy; that is why we refused to marry. We lived together. After having lived together for 12 years we had to accept that we were in love, seriously, and we had to follow the consequences.

While that was personally triggering, the entire interview is worth the read. Maryse Condé is fascinating. Disappointingly, I haven’t given her work any time at all. In a few months, I’ll be reading Condé’s novel ‘Segu’ with my book club.


I really love The Brother Moves On. I ripped this live performance from Youtube and it’s one of maybe 10 tracks that I’ve got on my phone. This week, I gave some time to a few TBMO tracks that I hadn’t before, including these:


I’m still trying to wrap my head around this TNI interview with The Jeane Dixon Effect but I really like the sound of the line bolded below:

Sometimes it’s not the other person bothering you; it’s the relationship with the other person itself. I’m thinking here about when you happen to be totally in love with some so-called straight dude as long as it’s just y’all two in the one on one, fucking and playing basketball. But then maybe you’re not so excited about relating to this third thing, which is to say the relationship you make beyond your closed engagement, and you don’t like the social means or ends of what you produce together. Sometimes relating back to that thing can be a deal breaker for people.

I chuckled the first time I read it then went back a few times like how did those words come together? why do they sound so good to me? (probably: hooked with “y’all” –> the sound of “in the” makes “one on one” so much more intimate –> “fucking and playing basketball”: two things I have little to no interest in but I like their seeming randomness).

that’s all i got.

Finding homes in art // ‘juke’ by Nate Marshall

Last month, Akosua Adoma Owusu screened a collection of her short films at Black Cinema House. Following the screening, she and Professor Terri Francis, spoke a bit about her work. At a point, Owusu mentioned that the initial motivation for her film work was a search for home and belonging. She’s Ghanaian but was born and raised in the United States.

Professor Olasupo Laosebikan, who was in the audience, replied that he believes Owusu had found a home in the art she creates. Francis added that she’d felt like she found a home of her own within Owusu’s work. There was something illuminating about this idea of finding/creating home in your own work or others. It explains why I revisit certain works, why I keep them close even when I’m not reading them. It adds purpose to my own work.

This past Saturday night I was reading the latest issue of the Indiana Review. I’ve been reading it for the past week or so and and it’s filled with some good-weird fiction. It’s been entertaining and a series of craft lessons. But Saturday night I was reading it because I wanted to avoid the fact that the NYPD had just officially declared war against civilians. When I came to this poem by Nate Marshall ‘juke’, I immediately thought of what Laosebikan said. I kept going back to it, wanting to stay inside of it:


Resilient Whores & Broken Virgins, A Review of ‘Virgin Margarida’

In Mozambique’s re-education camps, the women were the first to be imprisoned. Sex workers, dancers, and any woman working/living independently could be arrested. Licínio Azevedo’s fictional film Virgin Margarida is a primer to that history. You can read my review of the film on Shadow & Act. It is cross-posted below:  Continue reading

#Chicago: The Black Ink Book Exchange

A project I’m very excited about:

Black Ink Book Exchange is a pop up library open for the exchange of books by black authors, and about black culture. The project aims to create a space around books as a cultural currency, and consists of creative workshops, a reading lounge and book barter. The project will begin at the Arts Incubator in Washington Park this spring, and with support, will continue through the end of the summer in other South Side Chicago locations.

Contribute to the IndieGoGo. Like the Black Ink Book Exchange on Facebook.

Event Recap: Ghana Must Go at Shacks & Shanties

IMG_1322It was maybe a few years ago that I first learned the name of these bags that I had seen often in my childhood home. I was reading a post on a blog from Oroma Elewa. I was immediately confused as to her naming of the bag — Ghana Must Go. Reading the Google search results for the term infuriated me. How could a traumatic event such as the mass expulsion of immigrants be trivialized so? Last year, was probably the first time I heard my mother use the phrase. We were in standing in her friend’s kitchen in a suburb of Accra. She pointed at stack of empty bags and asked me to hand her a Ghana Must Go bag. When I asked her why she would use that term, she said it’s no different from Black people using the N-word. As writer invested in migration, identity, and postmemory, it was a bit disturbing to hear but my mother’s language is not reflective of all Ghanaians, of course. I’ve heard that some reference the bag with a phrase that means “A White man has died.” Needless to say, I was intrigued when I heard that a Nigerian-American artist (Abbéy Odunlami) created an installation and performance inspired by the Ghana Must Go bags as part of the Shacks & Shanties Project. My recap follows:

Abbéy Odunlami‘s performance at Shacks & Shanties was, according to an attendee, much different from his other performance pieces. On a wooden platform situated in front of the shack (the physical structure for the installations in the Shacks & Shanties Project), Odunlami, sat at a small white table with his laptop in front of him. Instead of seeking an active participation from the audience during the performance, he read an essay that was interluded with tracks he played from his laptop. The effect — at least in the eyes of Faheem Majeed, organizer of Shacks & Shanties — was newscaster-like. Even so the performance was engaging (check the guy holding his chin in the picture below).

For Odunlami’s installation, entitled “Ghana Must Go!” he covered the shack with the plaid plastic material that is used to make Ghana Must Go bags. Inside the shack, were stuffed Ghana Must Go bags. On top of a plastic US postal service container sat a red boom box. A track (comprised of six individual tracks that Odunlami layered on each other) emulated the sounds of a busy market in the space. Odunlami’s essay began with a few examples of the appropriation of “poverty culture”: cowboy gear donned by those who could well enough make beyond the median salary of a real cowboy (20,000 USD); overalls worn by non-farmers who probably don’t run businesses that are consistently in the red; ripped jeans that may cost hundreds of dollars; and lastly, high-end bags made by designers like Louis Vuitton that feature the patten of Ghana Must Go bags.IMG_1327

As Odunlami noted in his essay, the Ghana Must Go bag and pattern didn’t originate in West Africa, yet it holds historical significance in the region. During the 1970s, the Nigerian oil boom attracted many Ghanaians to the nearby nation. In the 1980s, as Ghana was dragged into greater political and economic instability, increasing numbers of Ghanaians left their homeland (or chose to remain wherever they had migrated for school or work). As the oil boom began to subside and conditions in Nigeria began to deteriorate, immigrants became a target. In 1983 and again in 1985, the Nigerian government expelled significant numbers of immigrants, most of whom were Ghanaians. Those being expelled packed their belongings in these plaid plastic bags that were subsequently referred to as Ghana Must Go bags.

Ironically, Odunlami’s installation was hosted in a garden adjacent to a building that supposedly houses many Ghanaians.

For more images of last Saturday’s Shacks & Shanties performance, check them out here. And for the remaining installations schedule, click here.