Recently in Mediated Realities Category

5933_138844056102_615201102_3187376_1816497_n.jpgI 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?

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.

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. 7126_1199858151971_1094056778_30705852_8132381_n.jpg 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?

Even the concept of adultery is warped; it's something made up like not going to Sunday Mass is a "mortal sin." Ain't murder a mortal sin? So the two are equivalent?

The public gets so caught up in how celebrities and politicians, or media-deemed and commodified "American heroes" "cheat" or "commit adultery." Who cares what they do to themselves or their family as long as they don't murder or abuse self or family (like OJ), as long as they hit their golf balls or shoot their free-throws, or can lead a nation fairly, compassionately, and without lying, stealing, or cheating people out of their retirements, homes, and futures?

I have never read or quoted from an ESPN reporter before today, but Bill Simmons's article on the Tiger Woods's apology is absolutely hilarious and straight on. See below.

TWoods Apology 2-2010.jpg
19 February 2010

"Tiger Still Playing by His Own Rules"
BY Bill Simmons

Say this much about Tiger: People give a crap. I don't know anyone who didn't watch this morning's speech. There isn't another athlete -- not one -- who could have made the world stop from 11 to 11:15 like Tiger Woods did.

And with that, we're done with the positives. I thought it was a borderline train wreck. It amazes me that Tiger learned little to nothing from the past two months. The control freak whose life slipped out of control dipped right back into control-freak mode, reading a prepared speech in front of a hand-selected audience of people, taking no questions, talking in clichés and only occasionally seeming human. Everything about it seemed staged. Everything. When the main camera broke down at the nine-minute mark and Tiger had to be shown from the side, I half-expected to see that he was plugged in to the wall.

RZA's Version of Washington Crossing the Delaware


9 February 2010
"The RZA's New Solo Project: Historical Art"

Wu-Tang fans might be surprised to hear that the RZA's latest work of art isn't a piece of music. Victory or Death is a limited-edition set of canvas prints that samples and remixes Emanuel Leutze's 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. In his version, the RZA replaces George Washington, and he's proudly flying the flag of Wu.

"It didn't begin 20 years ago... more like 200 years ago. And when you see the piece we're making right here, you're going to know what I'm talking about," RZA has explained. "We're about to rewrite and change history."

For Whom is "Precious"?



5 February 2010

"Fade to White"1
BY Ishmael Reed
Oakland, Calif.

JUDGING from the mail I've received, the conversations I've had and all that I've read, the responses to "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" fall largely along racial lines.

Among black men and women, there is widespread revulsion and anger over the Oscar-nominated film about an illiterate, obese black teenager who has two children by her father. The author Jill Nelson wrote: "I don't eat at the table of self-hatred, inferiority or victimization. I haven't bought into notions of rampant black pathology or embraced the overwrought, dishonest and black-people-hating pseudo-analysis too often passing as post-racial cold hard truths." One black radio broadcaster said that he felt under psychological assault for two hours. So did I.

"Ride the Fence"

Sade.jpg Sade New CD.jpg

With a few more freckles and a bit deeper voice, she's back.

Some might think it's corny to announce Sade's new album, but those of you who were listening to her in the early to mid '80s like I was are feelin' me. Check out ole gurrl here.

The Gao Brothers Express Mao's Guilt

Gao Brothers Mao's Guilt 2.jpg
"In China, a Headless Mao Is a Game of Cat and Mouse"
New York Times
6 October 2009
BY Jimmy Wang

(Left, Mao's Guilt / Gao Brothers)

BEIJING -- It's not the kind of sculpture of Chairman Mao you typically see in China. He's on his knees as a supplicant, confessing; his body language and facial expression indicate deep remorse. What's more, the head of this life-size bronze statue, titled "Mao's Guilt" and created by the artist brothers Gao Zhen and Gao Qiang, separates from the body -- by design.

What Have We Done to the Children?

I'm embedding this into the Social Etymologies blog because I never want to forget this.

I never want to forget the sound of a child's uncomfortable giggle as two-by-four hits young, black bone. I never want to forget the sound of a child saying "Damn!" over and over or someone saying plainly, in the background, "They beat him to death!" I never want to forget a child say with almost Fox News fascination, "Get closer! Get closer!"

I never want to forget a young voice scream desperately "Come on, Derrion! Derrion get up! Derrion, get up!"

I never want to forget that we produced these children. I never want to forget the process and practice of that production.

I never want to forget what we have done to the kids. I never want to forget what we have not done for the kids.

Beating death Of Derrion Albert, age 16, by his peers (24 September 2009, Chicago, IL)

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