I met playwright, hip-hop artist, and performer Idris Goodwin in Chicago in 2002. Our friendship and his finesse as a teacher brought him to teach at the high school I started in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.
A prolific artist whose talents have won him a National Endowment for the Arts grant, Goodwin now lives in Iowa City with his wife, a graduate student in the Department of English at University of Iowa, .
Here Goodwin discusses the problem with Black History Month, teaching, performing, and why he loves his mama.
My mama is the coolest. . . She's the first one on the dance floor.
LA: What do you like to be called?
IG: Do you mean "professionally"? A break beat poet, playwright, hip hop performer, teacher and video artist
LA: Where are you from?
IG: I spent the early part of my youth in Detroit, MI and my adolescent and teen years in a nearby suburb.
LA:Why do you love your mama?
IG: I love my mama because she's both a mentor and a best friend. She's the first one on the dance floor. She cries in church and laughs at all my jokes. My mama is the coolest. My dad is pretty dope as well. Smartest, hardest working guy I know. The second one on the dance floor. I learned to have a diverse breadth of experience from him.
At Steppenwolf theater, one of the more prominent companies in Chicago, the only time you'll see black and brown people on stage is when it's an adaptation of some sort of slave narrative or some story that takes place in the early 1900's, down south somewhere. Meanwhile, there are a slew of new works by middle-aged white, mostly male playwrights. It limits the imagination.
LA: You left Chicago a while ago. You lived there for a minute, no? Why did you move to Chi-Town in the first place?
IG: I lived in Chicago from fall '96 to March 2008 - so just under 12 years. Damn! I came to Chicago because I was 18 going on 19 and desperately wanted to be in a thriving urban setting. Though the proximity to the city of Detroit was only about 40 minutes, there wasn't much going on there. God bless it. It's the place where my grandparents migrated and where my parents and uncles and cousins and we were born and where my church family worships. But whenever we would go there to visit family and friends, all I could focus on was the neglect, vacant houses, crumbling neighborhoods. I knew I wanted to be in a place where there was some energy and life, a creative environment. I wanted to experience real diversity, ethnically, economically, and culturally. New York and L.A. were a little too intimidating for a suburban kid from Michigan by himself, so I picked Chicago. The catalyst was an arts school in the downtown called Columbia College. I enrolled in their film/video and screenwriting program.
LA: Tell me about Chi. Those of us who have lived there know it's a hard place to live with integrity. The City always seems to be pushing folks to step over people. Did the context of Chi's quid pro quo political system and the way it does "bidness" influence the content of your music and plays? If so, in what ways and through which media?
I think I'm finally beginning to understand Conceptual Writing thanks to Kenneth Goldsmith, who, in his consecutive posts on 4.27 and 4.28, drives home his point by employing the sentence "Conceptual writing [verb]" something like twenty-five times. As conceptual writing's (oops, sorry, Conceptual Writing's) spokesperson, Goldsmith uses very direct, clear sentences (though imperatives might have been yet more forceful) to convince readers that Conceptual Writing is [blank] (there are 20-some variations in these two posts, from populist to a-ethical). Like the best pitch-persons--think Brooke Shields for Calvin Klein or William Shatner for Priceline.com--Goldsmith identifies himself with his brand and tries to convince his audience that they should, no, need to, no, must buy into the spokesperson's product.
26 April 2010
BY Mark Nowak
Miners from Utah to sub-Saharan Africa to China's Shanxi province die, in part, for us.
Anderson Cooper is talking to coal-mining families and politicians in West Virginia again. Ever since that explosion ripped through an underground mine in Montcoal, it seems people all across America are discussing the dangers of mining.
If you watched the news during the recent disaster, you may have heard television anchors and reporters speaking about an "exceptional" tragedy, a once-in-40-years catastrophe that took the lives of 29 coal miners in southern West Virginia. Yet if we look at this tragedy from a global perspective, the tragedy in Montcoal looks, unfortunately, all too typical.
Since the Sago, West Virginia disaster over three years ago, I've been tracking deaths in the global mining sector on my blog, Coal Mountain. Rarely does a day go by when I don't have to add more names and stories to this death roll. Mine collapse kills 16 in northwest Tanzania. Six bodies found in Xinjiang mine collapse. Worker dies in Australian nickel mine. And these are just a few of the headlines from the days since the Montcoal disaster.
What happened earlier this month happens almost every day somewhere in the world: Miners are killed at work. And why do they die--or for whom? Miners from Utah to sub-Saharan Africa to China's Shanxi province die, in part, for us. As consumers who walk the aisles at WalMarts, dollar stores, and suburban shopping malls, we fuel the extraction of coal and other minerals every time we purchase items that are intimately connected to miners around the world.
Every time you purchase something made in China, your item more than likely was made not only in a factory with its own horrific labor conditions, but a factory powered by electricity produced from coal. And each year in China, several thousand miners are killed as they extract that "black gold" from deep inside the earth.
Similar stories can be told about objects in almost every room in your house. To extract precious minerals like diamonds and gold in South Africa, for example, miners risk their lives every day--including 76 miners whose bodies were found in an abandoned Harmony Goldmining Co. mineshaft in Free State last year. And tin? From the precarious and brief lives of Indonesian "tin divers," to the five child miners killed in a collapse in southeast Congo earlier this year, tin extraction is likewise written in blood.
One of the many lessons we must learn from the 29 miners who lost their lives in Montcoal, West Virginia is that our patterns of energy use, as well as how we shop, are intimately tied to those who risk their lives each and every day deep beneath the Earth's surface. As we begin to discuss the changing economy and our spending habits in the post-boom period, it's also time to think more about where the products that clutter our bedrooms and basements and boardrooms come from. And who is risking and losing their lives so that we can have them.
Distributed by OtherWords
Mark Nowak is a documentary poet, social critic, and labor activist. Nowak is a 2010 Guggenheim poetry fellow and serves as the Director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College. His writings include Shut Up Shut Down (afterword by Amiri Baraka; Coffee House Press, 2004), a New York Times "Editor's Choice," and the recently published book on coal mining disasters in the US and China, Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press, 2009), which Howard Zinn called "a stunning educational tool. Nowak was featured at the Split This Rock Poetry Festival in March.
The New York Times
Dorothy Height, Largely Unsung Giant of the Civil Rights Era, Dies at 98
BY Margalit Fox
Dorothy Height, a leader of the African-American and women's rights movements who was considered both the grande dame of the civil rights era and its unsung heroine, died on Tuesday in Washington. She was 98.
The death, at Howard University Hospital, was announced jointly by the hospital and the National Council of Negro Women, which Ms. Height had led for four decades. A longtime Washington resident, Ms. Height was the council's president emerita at her death.
English performer and former Sex Pistols manager, Malcom McLaren, died today, 8 April 2010. It is believed that he, like Wilma Mankiller who also died this week, might have died of cancer. Amongst other hats he wore, McLaren wrote and performed, in true '80s regalia, two of my favorite songs during my last year of high school: the 1983 "Buffalo Gals" and "Double Dutch" as well as the 1984 unique inspiration, "Madame Butterfly."
I remember McLaren's music providing a way out of disco and into a collaboration between hip-hop and what one might call early techno. Somehow, across the sea, this bloke merged NY's uptown with downtown. With the release of Buffalo Gals and especially Madame Butterfly, I could finally see some of the white rich kids with whom I attended high school and later college bopping their heads ever so slightly (in hiding, perhaps) to a beat other than Zeppelin or the Sex Pistols (who, don't get me wrong, were both the extremely dope of a different ilk).
Oddly, just two days ago, I was reading "Sale of the Century" by Greil Marcus in ArtForum (April 2010). The piece discusses McLaren's recent video, Paris: Capital of the XXIst Century. McLaren's "Buffalo Gals" video, an excerpt from the Marcus article, as well as chapter 13, "Le Peintre" (The Painter), from Paris are below. Enjoy and remember. . . .
IN 1991, THE SEX PISTOLS and the galvanic remakes of Madame Butterfly on McLaren's album Fans were in the past. Few had noticed McLaren's paltry album Waltz Darling in 1989 or his deeply felt BBC film The Ghosts of Oxford Street in