Scholars at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, have debuted an interactive website that chronicles what is believed to be among the earliest examples of the music of the African diaspora. The website Musical Passage tells the story of an important, but little known record of early African diasporic music.
The project focuses on two pages of sheet music from Hans Sloane’s 1707 Voyage to the Islands of Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica It is believed to be the first transcription of African music in the Caribbean, and possibly, in the Americas.
The project was created by Mary Caton Lingold, a doctoral candidate in English at Duke, Laurent Dubois, a professor of Romance studies and history at Duke, and David K. Garner, a composer with Ph.D. from Duke who has been hired as an assistant professor of music at the University of South Carolina.
Lingold says that “you’d be hard pressed to name a living genre of music that enslaved musicians didn’t help to create or transform. Jazz, country, rock, blues, reggae and the list goes on. Turn on the radio and you are hearing these musicians’ story. But we don’t know a lot about their early music because it was not preserved in conventional ways. And that is why a little artifact like this is so important, because it helps us to know more about what their performances may have sounded like.”
CHICAGO — If Baltimore native and Chicago transplant Savannah Wood has one regret, it’s that she didn’t take enough time to read all the books she said surrounded her as a youngster. Though the Chicago-based artist and Rebuild Foundation instructor said she was surrounded by incredible books, she laments that she didn’t stumble upon a book like Richard Wright’s 1940 novel Native Son, which she said she received as part of a book exchange while she was studying abroad in France as a student of the University of Southern California. Reading Native Son, which tells the story of a 20-year-old Chicago man feeling alienated like an expat in his own country, was an experience, she told The Huffington Post, that resonated deeply. “That was the beginning of my being interested in black literature as a reflection of black life, the positive imagery in black lit,” Wood said in a recent interview. “I want to share that with other people.”
Last week, Wood launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign for Black Ink Book Exchange, an initiative that will eventually become “not quite a library and not quite a bookstore” focused on works written by and about those from the African Diaspora and located inside the University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator in the city’s Washington Park neighborhood. Wood told HuffPost she was inspired to launch the pop-up exchange after working with renowned Chicago artist Theaster Gates to create a library focused on the works of black authors for a private client. With the Black Ink Book Exchange, she hopes to take that idea and make it publicly accessible in a way that serves as a focal point for the predominately black neighborhood to engage with the arts. She plans to open the space by spring and, during the summertime, move it to other locations on Chicago’s South Side.
“I’m hoping to really activate the space and give people a place they can feel they can take some ownership of,” Wood said. “It’s not just to be looked at, but handled.”
Part of the interactivity Wood is aiming for entails the offering of free creative writing and crafting workshops taught in the space by guest artists. Money donated to the project’s $6,000 fundraising goal will go toward paying the artists a stipend for their services, in addition to purchasing books to supplement donated books, furniture and covering administrative costs.
“You can get hands on and make things here too,” Wood said of what makes the exchange different from a traditional library or bookstore. “I’ve been making things my whole life and I think it’s an empowering skill to have to produce something and put it out into the world.”
Below is the complete text of journalist Dion Rabouin’s recent Huffington Post blog challenging this country to engage in a more comprehensive and far-reaching celebration of African and African-American achievements during Black History Month. GBN couldn’t agree more, and has added links to his blog for just that purpose. Enjoy!
Malcolm X was fond of saying, “Our history did not begin in chains.” Yet every year that’s where Black History Month lesson plans in schools across America begin. They begin telling the story of our history — black history — in chains. Young black school children don’t learn that our people mapped, calculated and erected some of the greatest monuments ever, like the pyramids, the sphinx and the obelisks (after which the Washington Monument is modeled) or that our people were literally the lifeblood of some of history’s greatest civilizations. They don’t learn that calculus, trigonometry and geometry all trace their origins back to African scholars.
Black History Month lessons never begin with Haile Selassi I, ruler of Ethiopia, who could trace his ancestry to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and beyond that to Cush in 6280 B.C. Never mind that Selassi actually has the most ancient lineage of any human being in history.
Black History Month lessons certainly never begin with one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever known, Hannibal, an African who conquered and extended the rule of the Carthaginian Empire into Italy, Rome and Spain. Most school children (and most adults, truth be told) don’t even know that Carthage, Hannibal’s homeland, is in Africa.
Mickalene Thomas: Qusuquzah, Une Trés Belle Négresse 2, part of the 2012 Art Basel
The 11th annual art carnival known as Art Basel Miami Beach is set to kick off next week and will feature Art Africa Miami as its cultural hub. The Miami Beach Convention Center will be hosting the showcase for more than 50 contemporary artists from the global African Diaspora from Dec. 6 to 9. Typically, Art Basel (which was founded in 1970) pulls from more than 250 leading art galleries from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, exhibiting modern artworks by more than 2,000 artists. Until 2011, when Neil Hall — owner of TheUrbanCollective’s Art Africa Miami — stepped in, the main show hadn’t had black galleries represented.