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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


So yesterday was a lot. I'm still recovering from the greatest weekend in Brooklyn this summer of 2014.

The Afro Punk Festival had been on my calendar since I was forced to miss it last year, and then outta the blue Spike Lee, 40Acres, DjSpinna and the New York Knick City Dancers (?!) decided to throw a huge old fashion Brooklyn block party styled tribute to Michael Jackson at Restoration Plaza in Bed-Stuy.

So of course I hit both.

Afro Punk 2014 Day 1xP-2585 And (as you can see) I got pictures, click through the one below or check the album (since yahoo killed flickr's slideshow function  and it's like you were there, only much quieter and less cool.

Afro Punk 2014 Day 1xP-2463

and video and stories and my god there needs to be another weekend between last and next just to express all the greatness that went down, from Spike hosting a good all family event for longterm Brooklynites and newcomers from around the world, including bringing out two of the newest Knick players, to a free rock event that somehow got a fraction of the Arcade Fire concert's media coverage despite it being just walking distance away from AfroPunk which was hands down the greatest music event last weekend and possible of the August if not the summer.

Here's a list of bands if you were getting married last weekend or just had fingers in your ears:

Meshell NDegocello
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
Bad Brains
Alice Smith
Lianne La Havas
Unlocking The Truth
Body Count with front man Ice-T
The Bots
Valerie June
about half The Roots
and thats only about 1/5 of the show. Plus there was food beer and rows of tents with vendors selling artwork, clothing and more. And entry was free.

So up there is a slideshow of some of the best pics and I'll be getting the video I shot soon with some special clips.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

AfroPunkFest 2014 & Spike Lee MJ Party

(above: Alice Smith mid set on Saturday Aug 23, 2014 at Afro Punk Festival, Commodore Barry Park, Bklyn)

AfroPunk 2014 music art food culture ere in Downtown/Fort Greene Brooklyn and i'm here.

5:15p Alice Smith at the Green Stage literally brought the sun out with her voice and energy.

Amazing set, Alice gave that no nonsense sweet sweet fierce fierce love to the crowd, her inspirations and even had a little left over for the soundman.

Lianne La Havas, brit born, Jamaican/Greek descended chartreuse/muse followed a Beverly Bond DJ set, and proceeded to cause a Brooklyn swoon the likes of which many are still happily unrecovered from. 

Throughout the crowd I heard as many people singing La Havas lyrics as there were remarking about how perfectly darling she is. Its true Lianne's songs have the quality of a young woman who's in the effort of finding love has had heart tarnished and uses the experience to burnish out songs which when delivered in her range from primal scream to often audible whisper, melt the heart.

It's a perfect bit of scheduling that Valerie June (whom I just caught before her set ended) Lianne La Havas & Alice Smith, played a processional lead toward Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, because each of the three musicans present a facet of young womanhood. Valerie's rockabilly strunging and "aw shucks-esque" sing cleverly ensconce a Valerie's  woman who will not be taking shit now or later. Lianne is romantic optimist, going mind and heart wide open into the romantic abyss, and Alice is lightning a potential lover hopes to catch and worries my fry them. 

If you'll allow me to wrap these three musicans into a loosely fitting metaphor, here goes, Alice Smith is Id, Lianne the Ego and Valerie's the Super Ego. Granted each has songs in which they play all and none of those roles, but on stage thats what the viberation I hear.

Alice Smith is a force of nature unapologetically contained in the body of an electrifying young woman. When Alice's label lacked the vision of her second album, the Grammy nominated artist went to her crowds and funded "SHE" her second album which has produced more of the high voltage, piognant and true songs of Alice's heart as mind, laid bare, that make her a musical pleasure to be transfixed by.

The stellar end to the 1st night of Afro Punk at the green stage was aptly presided over by the one and only Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. If you've ever been in a church service, if you've ever been to a racuous party, or had the pleasure of both in one, you'll have a slight idea of what heaven on Earth  Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings unfurled in Commodore Barry Park at Afro Punk 2014. Sharon was  minister preacher in full in one sequence sharing with the congregation her personal struggles and uncertainties after illness, "I didn't know if I would make it, I had no hair, no eyebrow hair no nostril hair, I didn't know if I would be anywhere.." in another moment renegotiating the playlists into a satisfying melody of their decade longer career songs. The movement of souls was visible, a funk more fortified than the sess tinged air, churning up the clouds as their musical chariot descended, like the revival jams of 100 Days, 100 Nights and eons of horny bass all rolled in to one, knocking the often unknowingly sanctifying crowd flat dead and bringing us back to life. Thats how Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings closed night one of Afro Punk 2014 on the green stage.

Today acts ranging from the nearly brad new life of "Unlocking the Truth" (who at aged 13 swiped the title of youngest festival group  from The Bots) to stalwarts of punk, ska & rock, Fishbone, who can always be counted on for a memoral show, will hit the Afro Punk stages, along with dynamic and diverse acts including Tamar-Kali, SZA, The Internet, Cro-Mags, the legenday Michell Ndegeocello, and culminating with a festival ending set by D'Angelo. So you've been told.

In a true challenge to musical loyalty and geographic possibilty at today is also the Spike Lee presented Michael Jackson party in Bedford-Stuyvesant at historical mixed media venue Restoration Plaza from 12noon to 6p Dj Spinna will be controlling the decks an spinning straight MJ and Jackson and or Jacksons inspired track just as Spinna does at hos annual MJ and MJ vs Prince parties around the country.

Cell service at these events tends to be spotty which I dont know whether to blame on infrastructure, or crowd control, but that is the case so I'll be uploading pics tomorrow as well as some choice video.

Fyi if youre a straight R&B type, the Mj Party ends at 6 as D'Angelo starts at Afro Punk at 8:30 so that C train (Kingston Av to Lafayette, followed  by a walk north on Ashland) might have your name on it

All Free. That's what's up Brooklyn, USA. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Despite Us Being American: after Michael Brown Jr. & too many more

Eric Garner's murder saddened me as it has many. As a person of color, as a person who has men that resemble Eric in my family. As a tax payer and American, his murder brought me so much sadness it took two weeks for me to write what I thought was a concise and useful post about it.

Then Micheal Brown Jr. an unarmed 18year old was killed in Ferguson, MO. by a police officer, shot six times, dead. It's been a week of me mostly avoiding that story for a variety of reasons.

Finally I wrote this, and my point if you want a headline, is it's not simply the shooting, the death, the tragedy of how people are viewed that has and continues to disturb me, it's that when these tragedies occur, the aftermath says as much about how people of color are considered in America if not more than the entire situation.


"Despite Us Being American"

He said "I will fight for your right to protest" and I could feel the tears forming.

I don't know why I chose finally watching Ferguson/Michael Brown Murder news reports to be tonight's insomnia activity.

One of the clips I saw was Capt. Ron Johnson the solidly build African-American head of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who was shoehorned into this situation and seems to have been elected for his ability to sit exactly between a rock (the historically disenfranchised community of African-Americans) and the hard place(the Police in Ferguson who as a group have largely deflected the law).
Capt. Johnson started with an apology to Michael Brown's family, speaking in uniform as a member of law enforcement in that state. But you know got me, what gave me pause?
When Capt. Johnson said to the parishioners ,"I'll protect your right to protest" my eyes watered up. I had to stop watching and wonder if I was just going to start bawling flat out.
If you haven't watched all these black people, not just in the last two months, or two years but since lets just say the last twenty or thirty years, watching all these black and brown people, (Oscar Grant, Patrick Dorismond, Timothy Stansbury Jr., Anthony BaezAmadou Diallo, Eric Garnermany of whom haven't committed a crime, several who committed misdemeanors or were caught in situations where they didn't know they were interacting with police, be killed by law enforcement. If you haven't witnessed that through the life of a black, brown or some other variation of "Other" person, then in some ways frankly you're lucky.

Lucky to know you're a citizen of a country that can't get enough talking about Freedom and almost always feels an obligation to protect yours. Do you who are not visually "other" have to interact with assholes despite being an American? Of course. Do you wonder if the government is not trying to take advantage or misuse your tax dollars, despite your not being an "other" american? Yes of course. There's lots of concerns. But usually law enforcement doesn't target you. If someone in law enforcement does target you, you have options, you can seek and expect justice, mistreatment of you will most always only go so far.

That's what hurts. The cop who shot a kid he'd probably never met ten minutes earlier is all kinds of idiot. But the entire police force felt it justifiable to back that idiot. That's a big part of being "other" usually Black as in this case and most cases. The police backed the murder, the victim was Black.That's the full on injustice. It's the same damned injustice. Even with a deep tan in the white house. The injustice starts with the precept that an unarmed, (very possibly innocent) brown skinned male is deserving of gun violence. It's an idea promoted across american society and embraced by law enforcement. Then the injustice continues when the officer of the law kills that black male without (we now know) knowing anything about this male. Then the injustice reaches full voice in the chorus of systematic American racism, when those in charge of the Ferguson Police force decide to back the murder. It starts with a racial history and the ideas that come out of it. But to understand the crime, for friends of those who don't, understand a police officer made very bad decisions, over reacted, killed a person he knew nothing about, and then the Police force decided to do everything it could including leaking false information in public media, to protect the murder.

That's what happened.

When the Highway Patrol officer told the congregation "I'll protect your right to protest" they erupted in cheers. CHEERS. Capt, Ron Johnson didn't promise to get justice (he can't alone) he didn't promise to hunt down the murderer (who's not been charged and was allowed to leave the state) he didn't promise to end racism and bias. He said he'll defend the crowd's American rights, and the people cheered. If you’re anything people refer to as “Black” you know this already. You’ve lived this, near and from afar but always as a member of the group not able to get equal treatment under our law. If you aren’t what people call "Black", or married, parented, bonded, brothered and sistered in some authentic way to someone considered as Black, I’m laying this out for you. The crowd cheered, at a member of law enforcement who resembles us, saying that he’ll simply do his job so we could simply have our right to say we’re terribly sad and upset, without us having to fear those we pay to protect us.

Because that's not something we're used to from American police forces, despite us being American.

Monday, August 11, 2014


On the corner of Rogers Ave and Park Place in Crown Heights ("western" crown heights as the new comers say, because obviously a neighborhood of two miles requires geographic annotations) there is a small lot that had been neglected by the owner. Concerned citizens long ago transformed the lot into a community open, garden.

The garden has stood for at least ten years. I remember the mural painted on the wall above it for at least that long.

Recently developers, one can only imagine who, tracked down the owner, who I was told, was living in Florida and beset with back taxes for the lot. It seems developers purchased the lot for below market value and are now attempting to developed the site.

Rogers Ave recently got a make-over in the form of an express bus lane. The lane stretches from near Brooklyn College in the Flatbush/Midwood section, connecting with Bedford Ave where it and Rogers merge at Atlantic Ave and continuing to Williamsburg.

I've been talking up Rogers to friends for years because it has lacked aesthetic charms but had lots of available rentals. Leading in the lacking amenities on Rogers is greenery, specifically flowers, trees. No double entendre here.

So the fact that there is a garden on Rogers which is fueled by new and old residents who want to keep the neighborhood on the upswing is a great reason in my mind for this site to remain green, and open to residents and especially local kids at the elementary school down the block.

I spoke with a volunteer who was putting the finishing touches on large painted letters spelling out "SAVE THE GARDEN" (pictured above) and he explained these details as well as the hope that local residents will contact our elected representatives, in this case Mayor DeBlasio, Public Advocate Tish James, as well as the City Councilmember for this site, Robert Cornegy( and request the city take over the site as a result of owed taxes and lease the land to the community garden.

For more information on how to help save the garden, go to

And now a brief summer 2014 recap.

It's been a great summer. I've already personally decided this is one for the history books in terms of the congenial weather we've had almost everyday since June.

It's also been a rough summer in terms of world events, and here at home senselessness like the murder of Eric Garner by members of the NYPD.

I've been out enjoying the former and loathing the latter so much I've found it hard to focus enough to write.

Some things I've missed are the random bouts of fireworks, (unrelated to the 4th of July), Kara Walker's "Subtlety" exhibit at the doomed Domino Sugar factory,

Things that won't be missing from this blog, the upcoming Afro Punk festival in two weeks which is shaping up to be the best ever. Views from the newest property on Eastern Parkway. A tease for Brooklyn's own Crown Heights Film Festival. A soon to be open new bar in an under served part of Crown Heights. Where I think you should place your bets for the next neighborhood to explode trend-rific (hopefully long lived Brooklynites can get in on this) And of course the now shortened West Indian Day parade.

In the meantime I came across this item about the efforts to save a community garden in Crown Heights today and I'm writing a new post to it right now.