Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mr. Rob Visits

Karina & Mr. Clint 
future pharmacist and engineer
One of the many things I have done during my life here in Denmark was work as a teacher at Copenhagen Euro School. It's a school in Vesterbro - and when I first walked into that school about 11 years ago - I fell in love with it. It didn't matter that the school was small, or that the building looked like it was about to fall to the ground. No. What mattered were the kids - a lively bunch of diversity and love and challenges. I had always wanted to teach there and was delighted when some years later, on the recommendation of a teacher there, I was headhunted to teach Middle School English. I taught English to 5th, 6th and 7th graders - and it was not only one of the most challenging jobs I have ever had - but the most rewarding.
I left teaching a couple of years ago, about the same time that the leader of the school at the time, Robert Barrett decided to end his 16 year tenure there. Rob is originally from Canada - and he taught 8th and 9th grade English there.

Since leaving Rob did what many other expats dream of doing - he went back to his home country.  Many wish to do so but whether it's due to children or a sense of not knowing, many decide to stay. I too dream of returning to the States, or Trinidad even. But as of this moment - like so many others with children - I know in my heart that this is the place for me to be. This doesn't mean that it's not without its challenges, but I've been blessed with a pretty cool network of folks - from Danes to other expats and not to mention my former students. Denmark has its challenges and I'm determined to be a part of the solution - my son is Danish - and I want to do all that I can to help create a stronger Denmark.
Part of creating this stronger Denmark are the students of this school. This past weekend I held an open house - Rob is in town visiting after a year and a half abroad - and it was heartwarming to see them. Some are still in High School, others studying medicine, law, sports journalism. Some are becoming politically active, while others are flexing their pens to become an even stronger, more empowered presence here in Denmark.
Lea, Kristine and Juana - all former students of mine shining their light out into the world. 
Listening attentively to Mr. Rob. 
In America if you are born there you are American. In Denmark this is not necessarily the perceived case. Many of these kids are born here - even their parents, but they are still referred to hyphenated Danes. When and if they return to the country of their or their parents' birth - they are however Danish. I have always encouraged my students to see the strength in this - of seeing both from the outside in - and using their voices and talents in hammering home the diversity that Denmark is.  I don't see these kids represented in the dominant narrative here - but it is my sincerest hope that by their sheer presence and intelligence that this begins to change.
It's akin to Black representation in the States although personally, I think there is more room for advancement in the States - for all the crippling racial issues that are present.  A comparison however is perhaps not valid here - but hopefully it gives some sort of idea of what these young adults are up against.
future doctors in the house! 

What inspires me the most are their attitudes. They are hopeful and work hard. They see themselves as being a part of this society - and having a right to pursuing a high quality of life just as many others. Many left Copenhagen Euro school to go on to  Danish schools and have expressed the cultural shock (Copenhagen Euro School was an oasis of sorts, where difference was a part of the landscape) - and for me to hear their heroic stories of how they chose to rise above these challenges is  inspiring.
Here are some pictures that will give you an idea of what the face of Denmark includes.



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear | The Nation

No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear | The Nation

"We may also delude ourselves into thinking that our efforts to “civilize” or “pacify” other countries are not about money. Slavery was always about money: free labor producing money for owners and industries." 

Smart Dane...Dumb Dane


Dear World. This is a picture of a Smart Dane:


He makes fashion. Music. Installation. He doesn't believe in bullying other people. 
You can read more about him in an upcoming interview. 
He makes art like this:



His name is Henrik Vibskov.

But this Guy. 


He's a member of Parliament.
His name is Thomas Danielsen.
He receives my tax kroner. 

And he makes posters like this: 


Thomas Danielsen is a GREAT example of a DUMB DANE. 
The poster reads: "If you Come to Denmark, you have to use your education".

Now, not all Danes are dumb. But I trust you will now be able to recognize the difference. 

This concludes our lesson on Smart Dane, Dumb Dane for today. 

farvel, 
the lab




Saturday, March 21, 2015

Re-Imaging Denmark

my old block when i first moved to Vesterbro...

I'm loving being back in Vesterbro - a vibrant, diverse neighborhood that is more of a match for where I am in life right now. It's quite inspiring and reminds me of the big city vibe that a small city like Copenhagen can sometimes have. 

I live right off of Istedgade - close to the Central Station. I usually refer to Istedgade as the crack of Copenhagen's ass - you'll find all kinds of illicit goings-on here - from prostitutes to drug users to the johns of course. But that is not all this part of Copenhagen has to offer. Luckily for me there are no shortage of greengrocers who have okra, cassava, plantain and scotch bonnet peppers for sale. This is all in the midst of a bustling street that includes young parents, hipsters and students.  Vesterbro has changed much since I lived here some years ago - but perhaps it's because it's the same neighborhood I first moved to when I first got here that I feel the closest thing to being home here.  I've managed to live in every neighborhood in Copenhagen - and enjoyed them all. 

Last night the Murmur had a a little meet & greet where we invited folks to come by for beer and a chat. The Murmur is an English language newspaper here that writes about Danish news, internationally.  Some may wonder why there is a need for such a thing - but after being here for 16 years folks need to know that although Denmark is a small country - it's been making big moves, politically, economically,creatively and socially.  Denmark's role on the world political stage is always interesting - although for the past 16 or so years one may say that Denmark is to American what Birgitte Nielsen was to Sylvester Stallone. 

I've been getting more into Danish history and there is so much fascinating stuff, I don't even know where to start.  First of all - the Black presence here - historically speaking is off the chain. Folks don't even know - for example - and I do think I've mentioned this before- but it's such a cool story that it's mentioning again, the story of Hans Jonatan. Who is ? Well, Denmark, like most other European countries had of course slave colonies (this is how Europe got her wealth).  From Wiki: 


Hans Jonatan (1784-1827) was the subject of an important test case in Danish law on slavery. Fleeing to Iceland, he became one of the first people of colour to live in Iceland. As of April 2014, a biography of Jonatan is being written by Gísli Pálsson.[1] 
Hans Jonatan was born a slave on the plantation at Constitution Hill on the island of St Croix in the Caribbean, which had become a Danish colony in 1733 when purchased by the Danish West India Company from France. His paternity is uncertain, but his father was certainly white; his mother was Emilia Regina, a black 'house slave' who is first recorded in 1773 at the St Croix plantation of La Reine, where she was presumably born. In 1788, Emilia had a daughter, Anna Maria, this time by a black man, Andreas, who at the time was a house slave too; but their fates are not recorded.[2] The details of the West African ancestry of Hans's mother are not known, though it may be revealed by ongoing genetic research.[3]
Hans Jonatan was owned by a Dane, Heinrich Ludvig Ernst von Schimmelmann.[4]
In 1789 the Schimmelmann family moved to Copenhagen as the plantation business took a downturn, bringing Emilia Regina and, later, Hans Jonatan with them.[5] Not long afterwards, Heinrich died, bequeathing Hans to his widow Henriette Catharine von Schimmelmann. In 1801, at the age of seventeen, Hans Jonatan escaped. It appears that Hans Jonatan joined the Danish Navy 'and fought in the Napoleonic War, for which he received recognition and respect among Danish aristocrats'.[6][3] Later taken by the police, he and his lawyer Algreen-Ussing argued in 1802 before a Copenhagen court under the judge Anders Sandøe Ørsted that although slavery was still legal in the Danish West Indies, as slavery was illegal in Denmark, Hans Jonatan could not be kept as a slave. However, in the case Generalmajorinde Henriette de Schimmelmann contra mulatten Hans Jonathan 1802, Ørsted sentenced him on March 31st 1802 to be returned to the West Indies.
He escaped again and for many years nothing was heard of him until he turned up in Iceland:
Hans Jonatan escaped again, however, and his fate remained unknown to the Danish administration. It was only around the 1990s that the rest of his story was pieced together and started to become generally known.[7][5] His movements immediately after 1802 are unknown, but in 1805 he arrived in Djúpivogur in Iceland. Our first record of Hans Jonatan after 1802 is in the diary of the Norwegian cartographer Hans Frisak for August 4th 1812:
The agent at the trading post here is from the West Indies, and has no surname ... but calls himself Hans Jonatan. He is very dark-skinned and has coal-black, curly hair. His father is European but his mother a negro. He was twelve years old when he came to Denmark from the West Indies along with the governor Schimmelmann, and twenty-one when he came to Iceland seven years ago.[note 1]
Frisak hired Hans Jonatan as a guide. Hans lived as a peasant farmer at Borgargarður working at the Danish trading station in Djúpivogur. He took over the running of the trading post in 1819.[5] By February 1820, Hans had married Katrín Antoníusdóttir from Háls. They had three children; two survived childhood, and their living descendants now number nearly five hundred;[3] among the most famous is one-time prime minister Davíð Oddsson.[8]
Hans Jonatan died in 1827.
In Thomas C. Holt's landmark book The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832-1938 (Johns Hopkins Studies in Atlantic History and Culture), Holt goes into the very fundamental idea that if "freedom" is something that must be debated - then there can never be true "freedom" - thus the delema of the concept of "freedom" in a world where courts determine such a status. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in the philosophical and social implications of "freedom" as a legal concept. 
There are many Blacks in the history of Denmark - Nella Larsen is a one such Dane. Nella Larsen was born to a Danish mother and her father was originally from the Danish West Indies. Larsen went on to play a huge role in the Harlem Renaissance with her novels Quicksand and Passing which covers the nuances of racism both in the U.S. and in Denmark. If I'm not mistaken (Wikipedia doesn't mention this), but I do believe I read once that Larsen has the distinction of not only being the first Black to win a Guggenheim Fellowship, but to be the first woman to have done so. 
Another Black writer connected with Denmark is Cecil Brown. He wrote the Lives and Loves of Mr. Jive Ass Nigger an early fictional  discourse on the conundrum of race and how it is experienced in Denmark in relation to the US. In a racially homogenous society as Denmark, many were socialized here with the good intentioned idea that race doesn't exist, and since most don't know about Denmark's colonial past many are quick to adhere to the "I don't see race" card. Unfortunately this combination of ignorance and privilege has done very little in Danes understanding the true nature of Race and racism and this has had detrimental repercussions to many of the Blacks I know living here. Many Blacks I know, including myself experience that any mention of race is like throwing cold water on a Dane's face - and the penalty for mentioning the "R" word is that it can be and will be used against you. In other words, dare to bring up the concept of race and you yourself are deemed a racist - which in itself shows the vast ignorance of this matter. We can't get anywhere - human beings - until folks stare their ancestral legacy in the eyes. Hopefully my presence and the that of others will bring some shift in this perception. 
Race is just as bound into the material of Danish society as it is in the States - it's just, as mentioned, that due to the general historical amnesia experienced here many don't understand its foundational quality to Danish culture. Hans Christian Andersen is known most today for his Fairy Tales, but as someone recently shared with me he was most known as a playwright during his lifetime. His most famous play? The one that was big theatrical hit? Took place on a French Caribbean plantation and involves two plantations: One white owned the other owned by a Free Black. The premise of the play is that the wife of the white plantation owner and her friend fall in love with this free Black man. Her husband finds out and arranges to have him enslaved. The only way out for the Black man is to marry the white woman. 
Again, as Holt so eloquently shows in his work "The Problem of Freedom" is that if freedom is up for discussion at all in any society - then it does not truly exist. 
Denmark is a fascinating place to be and these are fascinating times. There are many different people, for different reasons - many purposely seeking to live here given the news that it's the "happiest country in the world".  It is true that the quality of life is high here for most - and that there is a large, somewhat buffered middle class.  John Maynard Keynes mentioned that the most perfect state of capitalism is to have a large state - a state that ensures employment so that the wealth is distributed more evenly.  Denmark is perhaps the country that comes closest to this ideal - although in the 16 years I've been here there is definitely a pull to be more of a competitive capitalist society (influenced by the States). I'm not sure how this will work out - but if history is any indicator - and the number of homeless people which is on the rise here as well - it may not be the most comfortable bet for some. 
I met a very interesting young lady at the party last night - she's Danish and was adopted from North Korea. We talked about this - there are many adoptees here in Denmark from different countries - with Korea having been one of the biggest exports of babies during a certain time period. We talked about her experiences and in her grace she said something to me that I had never thought about. I asked her about how she felt about it and she disclosed to me that whenever she attempted to broach the subject to her parents that they would get hurt. That her parents and all those around her insisted that they did not see race - and how this insistence came from a sincere, beautiful place but the reality of course is much deeper. There is only so much she can go with this discussion with her parents - for the hurt that they express is enough to shut the conversation down. I find this interesting and very similar to how many react to race: if there is any emotion of guilt or shame the discussion tends to stop. Which is ironic because it is only through dialogue that we can truly understand each other, and so come closer together. 
She also shared with me some of her experiences as growing up as an Asian woman in this society - the stereotypes connected to that and how that has shaped her world view. We also talked about Korea - North and South - and she shared with the me the fascinating fact that in Korea - every person has their own kimchi recipe (I'm a kimchi fan). 
Victor Bennett also came out to the party last night. Victor is a brother from DC who spearheaded the African Empowerment Center here in Denmark, along with some others and whose work included having an organized response to racism here. I first met Victor during the Dan Park debacle here, and since then we have met and talked, exchanged experiences and visions.  He is inspiring and one of the few that I have met during my time here where his work does not seem to be tied up in ego. He seems genuinely committed to the issue of human rights and how that applies to people of African descent here and in Europe and the world. 
One of the observations I have made about race is the unfortunate divide that sometimes arise among people of African descent around the world.  One infamous incident of course was having a Jamaican poet visit me here in Copenhagen and have her express a deeply rooted dislike and lack of respect for African Americans. I am familiar with this dis-ease - as I myself come from a Caribbean family and have grown up hearing disparaging comments regarding African Americans.  Many from the Caribbean take on a very elite and snobbish attitude towards African Americans - believing what the media has spent so many years in cultivating- in the systematic dehumanization of Blacks. Unfortunately these people are ignorant of history, of the true contributions that African Americans have made not only politically, economically and socially but to the true import of their role in African Diaspora politics. When you look at the history of the States and that of the Caribbean - there are not many Caribbean islands where the peculiar institution looked the way that it did in the States. Blacks in the Caribbean were not disenfranchised to the degree that African Americans were and have continued to be - and many Black immigrants, rather than understand the role their migration to the States play in this choose unfortunately to embrace the white supremacist ideas that they have been fed. 
I feel very strongly about this because growing up in Brooklyn one of the women who helped raise me was an African American woman - who through her actions taught me how open and rich African American culture truly is. Through her and her family, I learned first hand how the experience of African Americans and the migration from the South imprinted their lives, how American slavery left its mark and if it didn't - how certain laws and policy effected them and in turn, us - to quite a degree. Unfortunately I have noticed the same tendencies here - with many Blacks from Africa or the Caribbean not truly understanding the important role that African Americans play in our struggle and they continue the exclusion of American Blacks. It's sad, but a strong reminder of Isaac Julien's words that you can't tell someone's politics from the way that they look.  
I met two other Americans last night - Joe and Andre. Joe is from the Bronx and is a mixed Martial artist. Andre an American footballer from Long Beach. We all sat: Bente a Norwegian, Liam from Ireland, Victor and myself and exchanged ideas and experiences.  It is indeed interesting times in Denmark and it instils hope in me whenever I am surrounded by intelligent, sharp folks. 
The fact of the matter is that Denmark is a destination for many: no matter where you come from. The city is beautiful, and many of the people too.  But is Denmark open enough for such a venture? For example I met up with Hamid the other day and he told me the fascinating story of a young couple who was recently granted a "Danish green card." Apparently, Denmark hands out a certain number of green cards to people who can potentially fill a professional gap here - for example engineers, doctors etc. In order to fulfill the requirements, however, you must prove that you can financially support yourself when you get here - and let me tell you, Denmark is not cheap and navigating the job/real estate market without having a network and/or job is next to futile.  So this young couple from Iran is here - and again, remember, they must have a certain amount of funds available just in order to get here. 
The problem is that many come here in very much the same way that folks migrate to the States. They see this as a new opportunity, a chance to get what so many of us seem to want: a way to earn money, contribute to society, create a family. You know, the regular stuff. The problem is, or shall I say the question is: Is there truly any opportunity here for immigrants? Will this young couple be able to find a job in the 3 years they have been granted to do so? Will Denmark open her doors career wise to them? Hamid and a whole host of others don't seem to think so.  Many see Denmark as a country who appears to be open but in reality she is not. 
I read in the paper yesterday that a German official remarked that no one in Germany could get away with the rhetoric that is accepted as the norm here in Denmark. Many notice the harsh tone in which politicians speak about foreigners, and the fact that the nationalist party, the Danish People's Party is the majority- a party that has a strong anti-Muslim stance.  Denmark is seriously going through an identity crisis and with so many caught up in the usual Western distraction of prime-time news, slanted editorials and political agendas - I wonder where she is going. Thankfully  many of the young people I meet are hopeful, and open, for change. 
One great example is the general response that regular Danes have had to the recent shooting at the Synagogue that happened a few weeks ago. It was an  unfortunate incident that included a young man who had recently been released from jail, and who the news reports actually asked the State for help- because he knew he was struggling and needed support. Interestingly enough he was denied. The unfortunate part of this is that he clearly was having emotional/mental issues - something common in individuals who have traumatized through war and/or displacement.  For example, Denmark has a significant Palestinian population - with many Palestinians being treated like 2nd class citizens. Remember the story that I posted written by one of my former 6th grader's, who is now in his early 20s? He talked about regular stop and frisks and continues to share stories of his being pulled over by the police despite the fact that he is not engaged in any illegal activity. Sounds familiar? Many immigrants here have been placed in ghettoes - and this was another interesting conversation that we had last night: Ghettoes are not by accident. They are created. Architecture determines behavior. 


Sergeot Uzan, Dan Uzans father (one of the victims in the recent Copenhagen shooting)
w Yahya Hassan, the Danish Palestinian poet.
photo Bente Jaeger

photo Bente Jaeger
photo Bente Jaeger
photo Bente Jaeger

This tragedy however seems to have pulled a lot of rational thinking Danes together. Last weekend I attended an event arranged by a Muslim organization to form a ring around the Synagogue - one of the scenes of the attack- and there was a heavy police presence (since the shooting Denmark has received 8 billion kroner to combat "terror") who are now brandishing machine guns. This is new for Denmark - and many, including many in the police force believe it to be an overreaction to the event. Many have also expressed dismay that so much money is being used for weapons, rather than investing the money in social programs to ensure that the many who have fallen through the social and economic cracks in the Danish system can be assisted and thus experience a higher quality of life. 
The worst thing that can be done to someone is to take away their ability to engage in an endeavor that helps them maintain their dignity. When someone's dignity is under attack it becomes a sure -fire way of cultivating hate. It's math. 
I also want to take a moment to express my respect for one of the victim's father - he came out to the demonstration and has been very open about his feelings regarding the loss of his son. Rather than spread hate he has been using this as an opportunity to bring Copenhagen and Denmark closer together. One of my favorite moments from last week was seeing a picture with him hugging Yahya Hassan - a Danish poet of Palestinian roots.  In the video, Hassan apologizes - to which  Sergeot Uzan, Dan Uzans father replied, "You have nothing to apologize for. Just continue to do what you do." It was a very powerful moment in Danish culture and politics because Hassan has had the balls and the diplomacy to speak for many here who have felt themselves abandoned by the media and social justice system. 
Yes, it is indeed interesting times to be in Denmark. 
farvel, 
Lesley-Ann Brown

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Few Reason Why Copenhagen Ain't such a bad a City...

what a view! 


the artist/writer with a more serious piece


1. My friend Glen. His artwork, like his friendship, is always full of laughs, keen insights on life and reminders to not take things too seriously...

Amalie told me her grandmother had often told her she had never met anyone quite as exquisite as Ms. Baker, ever. 

2. Hanging out with my friend Amalie - and seeing this beautiful sketch of Josephine Baker, learning that her grandfather - a cartoonist for a major newspaper here at the time- made this drawing of Josephine Baker - whom he also shared a friendship with. 

I love this picture of me. Sassy! 

3. Hanging out with Mathilda - the 6 year-old artist of this drawing of me, which welcomes me to my new home! Moving back to Vesterbro and in with Bente - an old friend who I first met in New York City 16 years ago has been amazing! 

Hanging out backstage at Danni Toma's show at Rust!

 3. Going to a D'Angelo concert and meeting Karina - with whom I attended her brother's concert Danni Toma, last night. Who knew, Aalborg, who knew?  The songs were fresh, the beats dope and the band a group of shining souls who managed to cultivate and maintain positive vibes during the concert. Danni's performance was a pleasure to witness - this kid knows what's he's doing up there on the stage. He was born to perform.



(And bumping into old friends):


forming a ring around the Synagogue in Copenhagen


 4. The people of Copenhagen who came out today to form a ring around the Synogogue to show support for more togetherness despite recent, unfortunate events. (More on that in another post!)




5. Bumping into Yahya Hassan! I think he knows I love his work now. After all, I did yell it out to him Brooklyn style upon seeing him! 



Monday, March 02, 2015

Bandit Queen Press Is Proud to Re-Launch Lesley-Ann Brown's The Organist's Daughter (limited edition)


when bandit queen press was initially announced, I was hyped. the presence and a determination that vibrate through the press’ mission are what movements are made of. history-making begins with ideas like these, as grassroots that become the foundations beneath our feet.

 lesley-ann brown commands attention from the beginning lines, revealing the connection between a daughter and iconic father. he who seemed to exude strength was now forced to be vulnerable, and she once forced to skip vulnerability when too tender to be strong was now faced with the need for honest assessment, and reasoned forgiveness at an impossible time. 


the organist’s daughter is the honest and lush journal of an island girl who cuts away delusion with a sharp reasoned knife, bearing no malice toward the human experience’s ache, or the delayed journey answers make to the heart long after the questions have been asked. 
it is the memoir of a conscious heart, kindly extending its embrace to life, while patiently knowing the delays of reciprocity, as it delights in the oft overlooked joys that peer up at us wondering if we will notice them as we look onto things we hope will look to us with similar regard.–Purple Zoe, Ultraviolet Underground

About 8 years ago, armed with just a printer, paper and my words, I launched Bandit Queen Press from my kitchen in Copehagen. 
In anticipation of the relaunching of Bandit Queen Press and it's new line of exciting, female poets, BQP will be offering now, for a very limited time, a re-issuing of Brown's The Organist's Daughter - a collection of poetry about "growing up Brooklyn" to immigrant parents from Trinidad and Tobago. 
Each book is a unique, hand-made and numbered. 
 *The most unique of papers is used*
Expect up to two weeks for your copy. 
Orders will be expedited via paypal (blackgirlonmars@hotmail.com) . 
Price per book is 200 kr (DK) + shipping (depending where you are) or $35 US dollars. 
Contact publisher Lesley-Ann Brown with any questions.
blackgirlonmars@gmail.com



Bandit Queen Press is a Movement that you can be part of!  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Kia Dyson- Her Ways of Seeing


photo courtesy of Kia Dyson
When it comes to film, photography and lighting - there are too many out there who can not master the deepest subtleties involved when it comes to capturing the many tones that is us.

photo courtesy of Kia Dyson
So I'm always excited to come across a photographer whose work not only demonstrates an appreciation of how lighting can be embraced, but also utilizes it to capture the uniqueness that is us.

photo courtesy of Kia Dyson
Kia Dyson does this. Her work elevates the nuances of Diaspora - allowing colors to work with each other and burst out to the onlooker. I caught up with Kia Dyson the last time I was in New York and have continued to follow her work since. Here is an interview with this bright new, young talent.


photo courtesy of Kia Dyson

1. What made you interested in photography? Describe that moment when you "fell in love" with this discipline.

I actually got into photography randomly. My career started off as a print model and then a stylist. While working at Jazzy Studios in Baltimore, my mentor, Jeff Butler, insisted that I learn how to use the camera and shoot beside him at our sessions. From the first click, I was hooked. I left for New York a year later, purchased a camera and my career started. I knew I was in love with photography after shooting and editing my first major project on my own.


photo courtesy of Kia Dyson
2. Who are your influences? (not necessarily restricted to photographers but of course including them)

Of course, my mentor Jeff is a huge influence. He taught me how to turn a love for something into a business- a business that you can still be passionate about. When it comes to hardwork, my influences are Reuben Reuel of Demestiks New York and author Jason Reynolds. These guys work very hard at what they do and their dedication to their respective crafts are contagious. As for photography and art, I'm inspired by Delphine Diallo, Kehinde Wiley, Texas Valenzuela (King Texas), Osborne Macharia, Pierre Bennu, Titus Kaphar, Tchalê Figueira, and Raymond Saunders. It's so many more but these are the people that I am studying a lot right now.



photo courtesy of Kia Dyson

3. How do you see the function(s) of photography in society and how do you see yourself utilizing it? (what is the function for you?)

Photography is and has always been a tool for documenting. My goal is to document the lives of the amazing people I have the pleasure of calling friends and colleagues. From writers, to other photographers, designers and models- I want to be able to say I was there when they started and watched the evolution of their brand. I also want to help preserve black history by documenting black culture.

4. What do you see for yourself professionally in the future (dreams, manifestations)?



photo courtesy of Kia Dyson
In the next 3-5 years, my goal is to have a fully functional creative design firm. I'm currently studying graphic and web design and have been doing digital art collages. I plan to turn my love of photography and design into a one stop shop for businesses and other creatives who believe in amazing web presence.


photo courtesy of Kia Dyson

5. Recent moments to be stoked: 


  • Digital collage work, Realignment of the Stars, featured at See- Scope Miami
  • Digital collage work, The American Genocide featured in Winter Tangerine's Hands Up Don't Shoot online exhibition.http://www.wintertangerine.com/hands-up-dont-shoot
  • Series of photographs featuring author Jason Reynolds will be on view at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago April 6-July 12 2015-
  • Portrait of author Jason Reynolds featured on www.beyonce.com

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bandit Queen Press-Press Release


It's cold outside and I'm sitting in this fabulous house in a suburb of Copenhagen. It's quite early - I tend to wake up early - and I have just completed reading a 26 page manuscript of fantastic poetry. Bandit Queen Press is proud to announce that a new volume of poetry is in the making - stay tuned for details. I am excited by this creator's work - her voice speaks to me in a way that I have been searching for. As with all things in the universe, spiritual timing is of utmost importance - and the timing of this is all so fortuitous.
This writer (whose name I shall not reveal until later) has a solid body of work. The range of her experiences and insight are exactly what we can use in this world right now- assisting us in the never-ending process of expanding our perspectives/consciousness. She represents everything that Bandit Queen Press stands for and that is empowered women heal the world. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

When Terrorism has a White Face




“There is a reason why the Norwegian police have not been overly concerned with rightwing extremism in recent years. It is plainly not very visible. An estimated 40 Norwegians currently belong to self-proclaimed extreme rightwing groups.
However, anyone familiar with the darker waters of the blogosphere would for years have been aware of the existence of a vibrant cyber scene characterized by unmitigated hatred of the new Europe, aggressive denunciations of the "corrupted, multiculturalist power elites" and pejorative generalizations about immigrants, targeting Muslims in particular …
The fact that Breivik was Made in Norway, a homegrown terrorist with a hairdo and an appearance suggesting the west end of Oslo, and not a bearded foreign import, should lead not only to a closer examination of these networks, but also to a calm, but critical reflection over the Norwegian self-identity itself.”-- Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Comment is Free.

On the same day Amy Winehouse is reported dead, a massive bomb blasts outside a government office building in downtown Oslo. A few hours later, the man responsible for this bombing disguises himself as a police officer and opens fire at a camp where the youth wing of the ruling Labor Party held a gathering.  With 93 people dead, it is the worse peacetime massacre in Norway’s modern history.
The man who claims responsibility for these two acts is a 32 year-old Norwegian, said he killed 93 to spark a “revolution” against the multiculturalism he believes is sapping Europe’s heritage.  This is within the same year that the British Prime Minister David Cameron, Germany’s Prime Minister Angela Merkel and France's Prime Minister Ncolas Sarkozy had all declared that, “multiculturalism has failed.”
Anders Behring Breivik, the perpetrator of these attacks in Norway, wrote a 1,500 page manifesto. In this manifesto, he managed to mention that Denmark was one of the only two countries in Europe that had a satisfactory immigration policy. In his own writings, the alleged Norwegian bomber appears to have complained about the "Muslim ghettoization process'" in Oslo -- a term also used by the far right in Denmark.
Denmark was once seen as an open country. Copenhagen, being the largest harbor in the region, was like most other harbors in the world during its heyday: it was the place where differences convened.  But something started happening here.
Denmark always relied on immigration to fulfill an employment gap its countrymen were too educated and qualified to fill. In the early days, their doors were open to Turkish workers, who gladly did what no Dane would dare to do: pick the food that would later be served on their dinner plates.
One of the reasons I had no problem moving to Denmark was because of its reputation for being a socialized state.  I didn’t mind paying high taxes if it meant I could go see a doctor. I also loved the fact that university was free and accessible, I thought, for all--and to be honest, Copenhagen is just, well, beautiful.
Copenhagen is a small city, of around 1.7 million inhabitants. Almost a half of its population commute by bicycle and it’s clean. One of the first things I noticed about Copenhagen when I arrived here was how orderly everything seemed to be: and well designed. I never knew government buildings to have Poul Henningsen lamps.  It’s relatively safe and the busses usually arrive on time.
If the weather’s good, Copenhagen in the summer time is magical. The gray from the winter lifts and people shake their zombie like daze and become animated, alive, smile even.  During the summer here in Copenhagen, its citizens take back the streets replacing the winter emptiness with leisurely walks and sidewalk hang-outs. But the weather need not be good here for its inhabitants to leave the house. There’s an old Danish saying that there is no such things as bad weather, just bad clothing. So even in the rain, you witness whole families taking park strolls to få noget frisk luft[1]
Copenhagen is, in many regards, the quintessential middle class dream. Where the ugly head of poverty is hidden behind quaint little buildings that are humble enough not to compete with the sky.
Another interesting fact about Copenhagen is that it is considered the site for the first ever terror attack in Europe. No, it wasn’t the Muslims, as many would probably think, it was the British.[2]
But Copenhagen’s easy-going and open façade begins to crack. My arrival coincided with the rise of the Danish People’s Party whose motto is, “Your country, Your Choice.” Sounds innocent enough until you realize their anti-immigration policy.  The problem is, the Danish People’s Party also talks about things that other politicians aren’t taking up, like the rights of the elderly and even animal rights. They also put voice to a lot fears that many Danes have, but will not openly admit.  The Danish People’s party is now  Denmark’s largest political party. This is from their website:                
·     1.  The country is founded on the Danish cultural heritage and therefore, Danish culture must be preserved and strengthened
2.  Denmark is not an immigrant-country and never has been. Thus we will not accept transformation to a multiethnic society
I could understand why Danes would want to protect their country: it’s pretty good living.  I’ve mentioned all the perks before, but what really enrages me on the whole about this immigration issue in Europe in general is the lack of understanding that European wealth was built on the exploiting what is commonly termed, in their newspapers, as developing countries- and if its wealth has been so built – how can you refuse the natural flow of that mathematic equation which inevitably brings workers back to your shores? Europe’s failure in connecting the cause and effect of its global and financial practices are suspect, at best.  
A few years ago Sweden suffered a crashing defeat. My friend and I took a road trip from Copenhagen to Sweden. Although the countries are neighbors, the landscape is very different. Where Denmark is flat like a pancake, Sweden has rolling hills, gurgling springs and forests that speak from centuries past. We were borrowing a house of his friends in this southern Swedish town called Bromøller[3].  Since 2000, the Øresund Bridge has made it easy to drive or take the train from Copenhagen to Sweden. Before, if you wanted to get to southern Sweden, you would have to take a ferry.
Anyway, we wanted to get out of the city, get on the road and see some nature.  The house was spectacular: a simple two-story Swedish style summer house with a sauna and meditation room. The house was on a lake.
Although Sweden and Denmark are so close, you also get the satisfactory feeling of being in another country. Sweden is huge compared to Denmark, and you can feel that size in the layout of the roads, the expanse of land that surrounds you and you hear it when they speak. Nothing soothes my contentious soul than to hear foreign languages. It is as if the words spoken, say to my heart, “hush hush now, you are someplace different.” We ended up exploring the town, doing some grocery shopping and getting a general vibe of the town.  Although I’ve traveled a lot, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to exclusively white vicinities.  But I brushed my discomfort aside, focused on my friend and experienced being high on the simple fact that hey, we were out of Denmark.
I did feel all eyes on me, but didn’t speak it to my friend. I learned a long time ago that it was better not to put words into those sensations, not to feed into it. In the end we fell in love with this little Swedish hide-out and dreamt about creating a space much like it, where we could be away from the city, close to nature and be able to create. 
It did come up though, that conversation about standing out.  My friend, admitted he felt it too. I also did notice that once when we were in town, a political party called the Swedish Democrats seemed to be holding a gathering just right outside the coffee shop we drank our lattes and cortados. But all the individuals we met up with were nice.  We both figured that we could definitely spend some more time there. When we returned to Copenhagen we bumped into some mutual friends who had a Swedish friend in tow. We told her that we had recently just been to Sweden, and that we had been to Bromøller. “That’s funny,” she said, “because today, for the first time ever, the Swedish right has been voted into Parliament. And Bromøller, was one of the largest municipalities to vote them in.”
These are the things I contemplate while raising my child here. These are the things I contemplated as a teacher in a multicultural school. I wonder, why are people so scared? Why the hate? And then I think about Albert Einstein who once wrote, “Our separation from each other is an optical illusion of consciousness.” And I know that this is the message I must spread.




[1] get some fresh air. 
[2] The Second Battle of Copenhagen (or the Bombardment of Copenhagen) (16 August – 5 September 1807) was from a British point of view a preemptive attack on Copenhagen, targeting the civilian population in order to seize the Dano-Norwegian fleet.[17][19][22][23] But from a Danish point of view the battle was a terror bombardment on their capital. Particularly notable was the use of incendiary Congreve rockets (containing phosphorus, which cannot be extinguished with water) that randomly hit the city. Few houses with straw roofs remained after the bombardment. The largest church, Vor frue kirke, was destroyed by the sea artillery. The battle is considered the first terror attack against a major European city in modern times by several historians.[23][24] The confiscation of the navy, would later source the term to Copenhagenize.
[3] The name means “Bridge Mill” 

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