Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Haley Reading Group: Gaurav Raj Telhan's “Begin Cutting"

[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2016)]

By Rae'Jean Spears

Gaurav Raj’s article “Begin Cutting” illustrates a medical student’s first encounter with cutting a cadaver. Filled with details, Raj highlights the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that go along with cutting open a human being, even after death. Ultimately, the article provides an inside look of working with a cadaver and how it can change one’s outlook on life and death.

Raj’s amount of detail in the article is especially fascinating. At one point, Raj notes “He shut off the power and gripped Stella’s split face with his hands. Back and forth, he torqued her skull until it was freed from the blade" (267). Here, Raj illustrates how the professor had to dislodge Stella’s skull from the saw once it became stuck.

After reading Raj’s article, what was one aspect of examining the cadaver that caught your attention? Why was that passage noteworthy to you? Please provide a page number citation.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Digital Humanities Club: Week 8

On March 14, for our session of the after-school program, we continued experimenting with graphic design. We first began working as a group with Pixlr, an online graphic design browser during our last session.

In our initial session, we did graphic design experiments based on images from the film Black Panther. In our second session, we took a look at images from the comic book version of Black Panther.

What caught my attention was that how the skills of the guys seemed to vary based on whether they were working with photographic images or comic book art. It seems like the different modes of images affected what kinds of creations the participants produced. It could be too early too tell though, and there are only a small number of us. Still, there was notable variance in what was produced over the last couple of weeks.

I'm going to ask the students more questions about their presences concerning audio production as opposed to graphic design.

The East St. Louis Digital Humanities Club Spring 2018

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Haley Reading Group: Jourdan Imani Keith’s “At Risk” and “Desegregating Wilderness”

[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2015)]

Cynthia A. Campbell and Howard Rambsy II

[Best American Science and Nature Writing]

Jourdan Imani Keith’s article “At Risk” focuses the term “at risk” as it applies to humans, endangered species (chinook salmon), and the ecosystem. Keith’s article “Desegregating Wilderness” highlights the contrast of the Civil Rights Act and the Wilderness Act.

In “At Risk,” Keith highlights the intersectional identity of being “at risk” as it pertains to race, gender, endangered species and physical location. The article speaks to the “at risk” label—protection or limitation/judgment. Keith notes that “Protecting an endangered species means changing the practices in an entire ecosystem to safeguard their survival” (150). This point indicates the dangers of ignoring the destruction of the ecosystem whether through climate change or ineffective safety precautions.

In “Desegregating Wilderness,” Keith illustrates the types of inequities associated with access to wilderness areas. The article addresses the problematic issues of the Wilderness Act. At one point, Keith notes that “people accessing recreation in the wilderness are still predominately white, and de facto segregation exists instead of a legal one” (152). This point indicates that divisiveness is associated with the lack of access.

After reading both articles, which one did you find most useful? Why?

Public Thinking Events

• February 28: Considering high impact opportunities
• February 22: Beyond the March event
• February 14: Black Panther
• February 13: Slavery references in rap: an exhibit

• November 29: "I love myself when": Black women, self-portraits, and selfies
• November 15: Journey to SIUE
• October 4: Group Work 

• November 30: Untitled: A Gathering of Black Women Artists
• November 16: Public Thinking 
• November 2: Public Thinking 
• October 5: Natural Hair exhibit 
• September 21: "On the matter of Diversity, Pt. 1
• April 20: Lucky breaks in education
• March 16: Perception of defects
• February 17: The Natural Hair Movement: An Exhibit --  Scenes from the Natural Hair Movement exhibit
• February 3: The Great Migration

• December 8: Scholarly Culture
• November 18: Bodies Matter 2015 event
• November 3: Collaborative  Intelligence
• October 6: Event: a focus on student demographics
• September 23: Smarter Than You Think
• September 9: Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House
• April 7: Caption This Activity: Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House
• March 3: Smarter Than You Think Exhibit
• February 22: Survey on technology

• November 18: A Gathering of Black Women Artists
• November 4: Creativity & Diversity
• October 28: East St. Louis
• October 14: Bodies Matter Exhibit
• September 30: Maya Angelou Exhibit
• September 17: East St. Louis 
• September 2: Activity
• January 14: Seeing yourself in popular culture and dream gigs

• November 19: activity
• November 5: activity
• October 8: activity
• October 1: activity
• September 17: activity

• December 4: activity
• November 27: activity
• November 6: activity
• October 23: activity
• October 2: activity
• September 18: activity
• March 21: activity
• March 14: activity
• February 15: activity
• February 1: activity

• December 7: Mind-work
• December 6: Educational environments, diversity, and shifting demographics
• November 9: activity
• October 11: activity
• September 13: activity

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Amiri Baraka's "Dope" and June Jordan's "Poem about My Rights"

I first discovered June Jordan's "Poem about My Rights" (1980) in the spring of 1998, while I was participating in a program taking courses at New York University. A year later, I discovered Amiri Baraka's "Dope" while I was on a graduate school visit to Pennsylvania State University. I first read Jordan's poem in a book, and my first encounter with Baraka's poem was through an audio recording. Those two compositions by Jordan and Baraka have been important in my thinking about black poetry now for close to 20 years.

Yesterday on Facebook, William J. Harris - one of my former professors and a specialist on Amiri Baraka - noted that he had seen Jordan read "Poem about My Rights" on May 22, 1979, at the Public Theater in New York. His comment led me to post a link from YouTube of Jordan reading the poem. While conversing with Harris and Tony Bolden online about Jordan's poem, I noted that I had always, for some reason, linked the two poems.

Baraka's "Dope" and Jordan's "Poem about My Rights" are both somewhat longish, at least in relation to their most anthologized poems. Both poems contain really powerful critiques of white and black people. It was the international perspectives presented in the poems, though, that first made me link the two pieces.

At one point in her poem, which among other things is about rape, Jordan makes analogies by mentioning "South Africa penetrating into Namibia penetrating into Angola" and later Zimbabwe. She claims that Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba were killed by the C.I.A. Baraka too had mentioned the killing of Lumumba. And Zimbabwe. In fact, he had written the word "Rhodesia," the previous name for Zimbabwe, and in his reading, he said "Salisbury," the previous name for Harare.

As an undergraduate, I was not accustomed to poets tackling politics and the histories of apartheid in southern Africa, or to poets referencing the assassination of African leaders. Of the 52 most anthologized African American poems, there's relatively little mention of Africa. Phillis Wheatley's "On Being Brought From Africa to America" and Countee Cullen's question "What is Africa to me?" in his poem "Heritage" are it for the most part.

I was thus intrigued by the Africa present to me by Jordan and Baraka. Just recently learning that the poems were first composed around the same period confirmed my suspicions that they shared some common time and world views.

My initial and longstanding interest in Baraka's "Dope," no doubt, relates to the dynamism of his delivery. I had heard powerful readings by spoken word artists, but I had never come across a canonical poet read perform like Baraka on "Dope."

Only fairly recently did I discover the audio recording of Jordan's poem, so for years, I would read it aloud to students in my classes. The defiance of her words gave me feelings of empowerment, and I valued the idea that I was passing along to students this artistic composition that was so radiant with resistance. The closing of the poem always moves me:
My name is my own my own my own
and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this
but I can tell you that from now on my resistance
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination
may very well cost you your life

Almost two decades ago when I encountered Baraka's and Jordan's poems, I had no idea that I would place them in such heavy rotation throughout my teaching career. And now, as I look ahead, it's hard to imagine future poetry classes without those pieces.

A Notebook on Amiri Baraka
Reading June Jordan's "Poem about My Rights"

Monday, March 5, 2018

Black writers and Basquiat

Books by Amiri Baraka, Tony Medina, and Roger Reeves featuring Basquiat artwork on the covers

The late painter Jean-Michel Basquiat is easily one of the most referenced visual artist among black poets, especially black men poets. Kevin Young has produced a volume of poetry dedicated to Basquiat and his career. Jay-Z, who owns paintings by Basquiat, has referenced the painter in his music. Paintings by Basquiat adorn covers of books by Amiri Baraka, Tony Medina, Roger Reeves, and others.

Jay-Z purchased Basquiat's "Mecca" in 2013. Image source 

A few references to Basquiat in Jay-Z's lyrics:
"It ain’t hard to tell, I’m the new Jean-Michel" from "Picasso Baby."

"Come through with the 'Ye mask on
Spray everything like SAMO
I won't scratch the Lambo" from "Picasso Baby"

"Yellow Basquiat in my kitchen corner
Go ‘head, lean on that shit Blue, you own it." from "Picasso Baby"

"Inspired by Basquiat, my chariot's on fire" from "Most Kingz" and "Grammy Family"

"I got Warhols on my hall's wall
I got Basquiats in the lobby of my spot" from "Ain't I"

"When I say it then you see, it ain't only in the music
Basquiat, Warhols serving as my muses" from "Illest Motherfucker Alive"

Basquiat is referenced by various others in hip hop. Jay-Z purchased Basquiat's "Mecca" in 2013.

Adrian Matejka, Mahogany L. Browne, Rickey Laurentiis, and Roger Reeves have written poems dedicated to Basquiat and his artwork. Years ago, Greg Tate published an essay "Flyboy in the Buttermilk" about Basquiat. That essay title later became the title for Tate's first collection of essays. Tate's second collection was entitled Flyboy 2.

Early editions of Kevin Young's To Repel Ghosts contained artwork by Basquiat.

Kevin Young's To Repel Ghosts is perhaps the most extensive treatment of Basquiat in verse. The early editions of the book included the painter's artwork on the cover. Later editions and remixes of To Repel Ghosts did not have the Basquiat images.

Poems about Basquiat or his artwork 
• Mahogany L. Browne's "upon viewing the death of basquiat*"
• Rickey Laurentiis's "Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta" references a painting by Basquiat.
• Adrian Matejka's "& Later" references Basquiat's Trumpet.
• Roger Reeves's "Boy Removing Fleas" references a painting by Basquiat.
• Kevin Young's "Urgent Telegram to Jean-Michel Basquiat."
• Kevin Young's "Cadillac Moon."
• Kevin Young's "Beyond Words."

A short checklist of African American poets on artworks & artists
A Notebook on Black Boys, Black Men & Creativity

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Digital Humanities Club: Jay's and Louis's Black Panther Interpretations

During our first week of graphic design work, we concentrated on photography from the movie Black Panther. Our participants, Jay and Louis, produced the following images.

Before and after. Jay changed a red costume to blue.

Before and after. Here, Jay used a copying tool to repeat images of the character Shuri's face. 

Before and after. Louis decided to remove the background. 

The East St. Louis Digital Humanities Club Spring 2018