Category Archives: Music

“Know Who You Are”: Interview with Spoken Word Artist London Bridgez

“The entertainment business is filled with snakes. They will try to make you everything you are not if you don’t know who you are.” This is London Bridgez’s advice to emerging artists and I’m sure many can relate. As women of color continue to be mis-constructed, misunderstood and unheard, London is at work as both an artist and activist. Her social justice performance credits include The Bayard Rustin Community Breakfast sponsored by the Aids Action Committee, Queer Women of Color Week- OUTSPOKEN, Provincetown Women of Color Weekend, Provincetown Women of Color Weekend and the Aids Walk Boston Opening Ceremonies.

Here London discusses the purpose behind her forthcoming anthology, Going Public, on black women’s relationships and experiences with love, her commitments as an activist and explains the importance of integrity and planning for artists.

Can you tell us what your name, London Bridgez, represents and why you chose it?

London is my name. I added on “Bridgez” because it summed up my creative process of transforming poetry to be listened to by audiences. In my art I attempt to bridge music and poetry. I believe that if you look at music within a historic context you will find examples of poetry and music being commonly fused in the creation of opera, yone poems, choral works as well as  in funk, jazz and early hip hop. It is only recently that the division has been created.

At the root of music you will find poetry and vice versa because tone,
rhythm, cadence, and lyricism, are the properties of both poetry and
music.  In my personal life I find great satisfaction in bringing
people together and bridging the gaps of isolation that often separate
people.

You are an artist and an activist. What social issues are you active in addressing?

I am an openly identified  gay woman of color. I  support many
organizations that are tearing down strongholds for LGBTQ equality
such as Queer Women of Color, Aids Action Committee of Boston, NYC
Heritage committee, Riverside Church NYC and a long list of others.

In terms of my personal engagement, my wife and  I am currently
co-editing  anthology of writing called Going Public: Black Women
reflect on love, relationships and coupling. In preparation for our
wedding, we began an ongoing discussion about not knowing many Black
lesbian couples, particularly married ones. Our conversation evolved
into a deeper discussion of how marriage and indeed “coupling” is far
too uncommon within the Black community.

We thought it would be insightful to hear the stories of other Black
women who have chosen to marry whether to another Black woman or a woman of another racial/ethnic background. As legal residents of Massachusetts, we recognized how fortunate we were to even have this discussion, as most gay and lesbian people do not have the opportunity to legally marry their partners in their own states.

We went on to think about coupling in general and began doing research on this issue. Via our research we found that Black women in the U.S. are the least likely to marry or to couple regardless of sexual orientation. Whether straight or gay, black women are less likely than any other racial/ethnic group to be married or living with a partner as a couple. This anthology will not only give historical presence to the voices of black women but also reflect on the social implications that stem from these statistics of black women and marriage. It is important for the voices of black women to be heard by larger society. We are not invisible. Our stories matter. Telling the stories of black women is vital to the black community and society at large.

I mentioned how much I like your piece, SHE.  How did SHE come about?

She is an interesting piece for me. I, oftentimes, secretly write
about myself in my work. SHE was the first piece that I publicly wrote
about myself. The sole message in SHE is that women do not fit nicely
into categorical boxes. It is about the intersections of diversity
that we all live at the crux of. One of my favorite lines is “She is your big sister
almighty/DJ spinning all night/The slam poet word line fighting/Mother earth rain thunder lightening POW.”

Each of us as people and more specifically as women carry with us a unique combination of likes, dislikes, interests and passions.  At the end of the poem I say: “This is for the girls labeled trouble for being themselves who refuse to sit on shelves and wait for the world to give them permission to come out and play/This is for me/This is for you/Our Fuerza/Our strength/Our truth.” I believe we as women are most strong when we give ourselves permission to be all of who we are.

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Time

Oh, how I wish you’d stay.

“When you close your eyes, you can see far.” –Kenyan Proverb

Asa helps us close our eyes.

Don’t Upset the Rhythm

We work hard for Live Unchained because we want this project to connect and empower. Thanks to all of our supporters who continue to help us along the way. Live Unchained is only what it is because of you and we want to make you proud.

We’ve decided to take some time away from the blog to make this project the best it can be. Of course, this doesn’t mean we’re taking it easy just because it’s the summer time ;). We actually have many things going on behind the scenes–business plans, interviews, marketing, web development and trips to name a few–so we’ll be performing backstage maintenance. This means that over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting a little less frequently than usual.

Now, of course, we couldn’t leave you with nothing to step to…

We’ve been enjoying UK singer–by way of Zimbabwe–Shingai Shoniwa of the Noisettes. She has the glamor of Diana Ross, the edge of Grace Jones and the artistry of Lauryn Hill.  The Noisettes’, “Don’t Upset The Rhythm,” seems appropriate given where we are in the evolution of Live Unchained—putting in all the energy that we can, but trusting the timing of everything.

Talk to you soon–looking forward to it…

Dear Janelle Monáe,

Thank you for being you.

Love,
Kathryn & Miriam

I really just want to encourage and inspire people to use their freedom in a positive way and in a way that is inspiring to other people. – Janelle Monáe

On her MySpace page for Cindi Mayweather, her android alter-ego, Janelle Monáe explains why artistic freedom is necessary. She writes:

This is a clear indication of why I strive to be free as I can when I perform.

Why I do my own hair and pick out my own clothes.

Why I express myself the way I do.

Why I strive not to play it safe, especially with my music.

Why I strive to not play by “the rules” or your rules for that matter.

Why when you’re trying to change lives and have influence, having commercial success is not really that important.

Why I exercise my rights.

Why I am not upset that you don’t like the way I dress or my hair or the way I dance.:-)

Why I really don’t care about you not believing in Janelle Monáe.

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Meet Res. Res Rocks!

We love “There’s No Way” by Res, a beautiful tune about defining freedom.

Get her latest album, Black.Girls.Rock! for $Free.99 here.

Why the window seat…

Now that the hype has died down, I am happy to be writing about Erykah’s Badu’s “Window Seat.” In Erykah’s guerilla style video she removed her clothes, layer by layer, until she was bare. The video left many people saying either: “I love it” or “I don’t get it.”

Of course, Erykah Badu had a message, but art is not about “getting it.”  Art is about being present with a piece and letting it reveal itself to you—it will meet you where you are.

I am about to take another long trip. I don’t want to be sandwiched in between people who don’t care what my name is. I don’t want to have to step on someone’s toes just because I can’t hold it. The only food I eat that day will be the meal they give me on the flight, so I don’t want someone carelessly reaching over my food.  The question I really need answered is: “Can I get a window seat?”

The video has gotten so much attention that I just want to focus on the song.  After all, when Erykah says some real stuff, she says some real stuff.

I once had a teacher tell me not to read texts for meaning, but to just let the words wash over you.  For Ms. Badu, I did.

The lines I most connected with were:

I don’t want to time travel no more,
I want to be here.

When she says: “I want to be here,” she is really singing it.  It sounds like Erykah’s quietly screaming; she knows she is missing out on something worth experiencing.

I see time traveling as moving across space and time in your head—thinking about mistakes and problems you cannot undo and dreaming up a future without them.  If you time travel too much, the present doesn’t even feel like “now,” it just feels like limbo.

Erykah’s song reminded me of some lyrics from singer, Ani DiFranco’s “As Is”:

When I look down,
I just miss all the good stuff,
But, when I look up,
I just trip over things.

When you feel like this, it’s good to keep in motion, but it’s also important to pause.  Find a restorative space.

For Live Unchained, we are not waiting to win the lottery—we are at work (and maybe even at war–if only for ourselves).  And, we will succeed.  But, because the journey is so long, because I aint no woman of steel, can I get a window seat?