Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Askia Toure': The Unlimited Power of Art in Man

The Unlimited Power of Art in Man

04/11/2017 08:45 pm ET

Co-Founder of the Black Arts Movement Askia M. Touré Speaks and Art Lives - BLACK

3 Unpublished Poems in Editorial for National Poetry Month
This period is potentially entering into the second Civil War and the condition of African Americans and other peoples of colors and mirrors that of African Americans and Native Americans in the 1900s. We are still colonized. Askia Touré for this interview

“The Honorable Baba Askia Toure is the the sage and grio of culture and thought.  A man who was visited by Auset. Form the pyramid to the projects to the stars one of the major influences behind who I am today.”

“Free people don’t have to say “Black Lives Matter”. Free people don’t have to say that. That’s a known reality. Some of the more perceptive scholars have called this Post Reconstruction two.” Askia M. Toure, Poet and Black Arts Movement Legend
Art Man. Hear history. Art Askia Touré. Hear now? You listen to Askia Muhammad Touré and you will hear history. You will hear the tears, brimming. You will hear the joy swimming. Hoarse laughter circling. You will hear the pride, unmasked. Yes, a distinct color timbre of glee that is in that voice that is history as it keeps time with staccatoed alliteration and a vibrato that hums. A sweet soul. Magnificent soul of the Kora humming is his S’s. See history is made of men and women who did the work, made the time. Their time is history whose hearts sing as they walked the streets. To Harlem in the 1960s from Songhai in the 1400s, history is paved with blood sweat and tears. Hear? Bone crushing rhythms? Yes - it is loud, undeniable. And definite percussion. Authority. Animal skin on Djembe drum rapping. It is our voices come from the dark into the light of day. It is the sound of elections. It is the sounds of revolutions. Resistance. Soulutions. The earth’s heart beating is earthquakes and them- they voices. It is the beat of a man’s heart covered over in voice. And these hearts in unison, a great spirit force immortal. Risen. Now, history sits at a room in Boston and composes lines to not only record the record but carry the spirit forward. The voice carries on from the mouth of a svelte sage into the ears of youngs. Hear it now? Yes. It’s the voice of Askia Muhammad Touré. Black. Arts. Movement. It’s poetic dialect. Didactic. Red heart, earth center. Talk slowly beat. We are born again again and again. This fire rages. Calmed only by breezes
A Younger Askia Toure’ grabs the mike and speaks truth
Askia Muhammad Touré is a poet and leading voice of the Black Arts Movement. His works include African Affirmations: Songs for Patriots: New Poems, 1994 to 2004 (Africa World Press, 2007). Dawnsong!: The Epic Memory of Askia Touré (Third World Press. 1999) From the Pyramids to the Projects: Poems of Genocide & Resistance! (Africa World Press. 1990) Juju: Magic Songs for the Black Nation. (1972 Songhai. Songhai Press, 1972). In 1989, he won the American Book Award for his work with poetry; In 2000, Stephen E. Henderson Poetry Award for Dawnsong and in 1996 Gwendolyn Brooks Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gwendolyn Brooks Institute like in Chicago, Illinois.
WIND-CHANT: A DIVA “PROFILES” She was wild and fresh, a breeze from forever/ blown across frontiers of my life. Her whispers/ were soft, spring breaths stroking leaves,/ guiding them towards fecund maturity. I was/ rock, unbending, hopelessly rigid; but she/ found secret depths, emerald valleys glowing/ in her mind. Wind and rock, yin and yang,/ her golden voice sang in dark infinities,/ was sunlight where green reigned supreme/ in mythic landscapes extolling Summer./ My beautiful one, a hurricane sweeping/ the tropics, filling us all with emotion,/ insurgent devotion to all that surges and/ surrenders, sings and embraces totalities;/ emerges clean and whole to perpetual/ rhythms alive in melanin realms where/ lost voices haunt recurring dreamscapes,/ and spirits resurrect full moons, forever Eden. Toure Askia, April 2017
In 1961, Touré protested the assassination of Patrice Lumumba with Amiri Baraka, Calvin Hicks, Aishah Rahman, Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, Alex Prempe, Mae Mallory, and Maya Angelou at the United Nations. He is a former editor of the Journal of Black Poetry, Black Dialogue and Black Star. He also participated in the rise of the Black Panther Party and helped write SNCC’s 1966 “Black Power Position Paper.” He is a former editor of the Journal of Black Poetry, Black Dialogue and Black Star. The current Resistance finds roots gripped tightly in Askia Toure’s clenched black power fists.
These days, he resides and teaches in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a writer-in-residence in Boston at the now defunct Ogunaaike Gallery in Boston’s South End. He is currently working on a film about the Black Arts Movement and completing further projects and poems of his writing.
“Poets like Larry Neal and Askia Touré were, in my mind, new masters of the new black poetry... Askia had the song-like cast to his words, as if the poetry was actually meant to be sung.” — Amiri Baraka, poet and dramatist
But let’s ground these words to earth and bring the high talk to the earth’s granular vibrations. I’ve said it before - What a blessing it is to converse with the elders; to glean their wisdom with simple truths, simple talk. Their words are like a benediction. They are sonar bridges throughout the ages. Are we listening to our elders? What Askia Muhammad Touré embodies is the beauty of our elders. And we are a wealthy people. Billions is a meager number when compared to the riches of our soul, of our legacy. Our elders are rich with time, cosmic beings who know no limits. These are the shoulders upon which we stand upon. And this is the measure by which our children will look to us, their forebearers, a new power generation.
Askia expresses a pride in the next generation of millennials warriors and draws a line straight from the Harlem Renaissance to our current cultural milieu:
Elder Askia Toure’, as one of our preeminent poets, National Poetry Month might hold a particular significance to you. What kind of poetry have you been working on lately?
While having a background of modern lyrical and narrative poetry, rooted in the Blues/Jazz tradition of Langston Hughes, Margaret Walker, and Gwendolyn Brooks, I found myself drawn to the epic, as a form for conveying specific cultural and spiritual experience. While a young poet, in the Umbra group, and later in John Killens’ writers workshop at Columbia University, I was advised by poet-critic Lorenzo Thomas to explore the works of the Negritude poets, Aime Cesaire and Leon Damas. While “abroad,” I discovered W.B. Yeats, and the Irish tradition, the Romantic Percy Shelley, and the Chilean bard, Pablo Neruda. I was deeply moved by Neruda’s Spanish Civil War poems, and the great epic, “Song of the Red Army at the Gates of Prussia” However, my major Neruda influence was his “Canto General,” or the General Song of South America. These influences inspired my volumes “From the Pyramids to the Projects”, and “Dawn Song!”. Currently, I’m working on my Nile Valley epic, “Isis Unbound, the Goddess Songs” which include my first Nile Valley short stories.
Rich, lyrical poetry that explores themes such as apocalypse, the Black Arts Movement and activism. Toure’s language reflects that of the biblical Pslams, which were not meant for dramatic reading but rather to be sung. Google Books
“The kids have went for the okie dokie with this thug rap” Askia Toure
As one of the founding voices of the Black Arts Movement and Black Power Movement, you have witnessed Jazz at its height and the emergence of Hip Hop as a global sound. Where has black expression been and how has it informed the black American experience?
My view is that Black expression is, or dominates culturally, the “American” experience. African-American classical music “Jazz” is functionally “American” classical music! Jazz is the “voice” of Modern-Post-Modern era. Unfortunately, the U.S. is dominated by giant corporations, created and controlled by the Anglo elite, which has never accepted “Jazz” as American classical music. The liberal acceptance of Wynton Marsalis and his mentor, Stanley Crouch is a half-hearted motion to reflect the World’s recognition of “Jazz” as U.S. classical music.
“Jazz,” of course, is the music of the descendants of slaves, and therefore, could never be accepted by the descendants of the Anglo masters. The study, “This Is Our Music, Free Jazz, the ‘Sixties and American Culture,” by Professor Lain Anderson, University of Penn. Press, 2007, reflects this particularly “American” cultural dilemma.
As for Hip Hop, I view it as basically a youth musical expression of the Millennials, Black Arts’ grandchildren. Because of African-American national oppression, Hip Hop was interfered with by white musical corporations and transformed from youthful cultural pride with groups such as Sista Soulja, Queen Latifa, X-Clan, Common, KRS1 and Public Enemy into the degenerate “Gangsta Rap” thuggery, led by Lil Wayne & company. Within the original cultural imagery, young women were celebrated as beauties and “queens”, but with the Corporate “intervention,” the Lumpen “thug” negative was emphasized, and young Black females were denigrated as “chicken-heads, skeezers, bitches and “ho’s.” As a prominent Black journalist and novelist pointed out, his teen-age daughters complained that nobody sang them any love-songs! A negative “first” for Black urban Blues & Soul music.
“The poems in this collection address the cultural and spiritual needs of Black people. In Dawnsong! In these poems Toure takes the reader back to ancient Egypt and, at the same time, demonstrates the relevance of Egyptian history and, at the same time, demonstrates the relevance of Egyptian history and mythology to the lives of contemporary Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. “
MILES, BEYOND 2000: A FINAL ELEGY (for Miles Davis)
“Jazz is finished. We better get it together!” — Miles, 1975
Driving through America’s neon graffiti,/ one remembers Miles’ furious quest:/ a master disciplined, fiery, determined;/ a man—-zealous, powerful, elegant—-forging/ Driving through America’s neon graffiti,/ one remembers Miles’ furious q uest:/ a master disciplined, fiery, determined;/ a man—-zealous, powerful, elegant—-forging/ in the fluidity of grace: a dark, griot mind/
exploring depths of Inner Space—-and Time/ so marginal in his magical paradigm blazing/like a nuclear sun. Miles who created new/Essence and rhythms via Great Black Voices—/ orality, beyond puritan morality, unleashing/ Apocalypse. A prophet seeking visions, past/ Bluesy “style” collapsed beneath the ferocious/
Genocide of “Dollarism”: Anglo imperialists/ scheming to blast our Harlems into myriad/ Free Fire Zones among Dantesque Infernos./ So, how would life flourish within this/ Nation of Poets, Shouters, Screamers when/ the Blue Song fades in Urban Gulags,/ and only primitives remain among its echoes?/ Who would we be then: what ancient agony/ withered, though essential, awaits in bleak/ Silence spewed with crack pipes, condoms,/ glocks, and the shock of recognition among/ nameless, faceless spirits writhing in the dusk?
Askia Toure, April 2017
Askia Muhammad I (ca. 1443 – 1538), born Muhammad Ture or Mohamed Toure in Futa Tooro, later called Askia, also known as Askia the Great, was an emperor, military commander, and political reformer of the Songhai Empire in the late 15th century, the successor of Sunni Ali Ber.
Your name is that of a kingdom governor, military strategist and statesman. He was renowned for encouraging literacy amongst his followers in in the Empire of Songhai. How has that name impacted your life?
My name change developed out of the Black Arts Cultural Revolution. While reaching back to Africa, and the Ancestors, we embraced what we discovered about African Civilization and history. I chose the Songhai emperor, Askia the Great, who was a legendary and inspiring leader and ruler of the Songhai empire of West Africa. We rebelled against the culture of our Anglo former enslavers, and sought to get rid of our “slave -read Anglo-Saxon- names.” We hoped to create radical, new traditions among us which we could leave to the younger generations. It was in that spirit, that Maulana Karenga and colleagues created the African holiday known as Kwanza, which has become a new tradition among our people.
Black Lives Matter - I ask you this question listening to a video in which you stated, “Free people don’t have to say “Black Lives Matter”. Free people don’t have to say that. That’s a known reality. Some of the more perceptive scholars have called this Post Reconstruction two.” - How do you believe that American Lives Matter at this juncture in World History?
This period is potentially entering into the second Civil War and the condition of African Americans and other peoples of colors and mirrors that of African Americans and Native Americans in the 1900s. We are still colonized. They have just shifted the slavery to the inner cities and prison industrial complex. The urban police in the cities across the country take the same position as the slave patrols. Matter of fact, the way black people are treated now, they are worse than the slave patrols. Because the slaves were considered valuable for their economic value in picking cotton. Now, an active minority appears to be capable of shooting down
I think it is critical as a senior activist, it is a number one on priority to engage the Millennials to make them aware of their legacy and to talk the history with them. I think that is very important. As we did in the 90s and 2000s, we will develop institutions whereby we can transform and transfer a lot of experience to the younger generation. They are very receptive they ask a lot of questions. A lot of our colleagues have sat down with them and we are so proud of them. A lot of them are the children of the buppies but in a lot of cases they went looking for the old folks that were the Black Arts Movement and Black Power Movement. I am so proud of them. We got along instantly. They are sort of see us as living legends because they generally know the story of our struggle. We are to them what John Henry Clarke was to us.
I have known Toure when he was Roland Snellings and he was published in Soulbook, Journal of Black Poetry,Black Scholar and Black Dialogue Magazine. However, more importantly, when I arrived in Harlem in 1968, he was the one who gave me a tour. When I came back to the US as a draft dodger, I departed Chicago for Harlem after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. Askia was the one who gave me my tour of Harlem. I was working at the Lafayette Theater with Ed Bullins. We were associated with the Last Poets, LarryNeal, Barbar Anne Teer, Nikki Giovanni, Sonja Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Sun Ra. We were all there together. Marvin X Jackmon a.k.a. El Muhajir, co-founder of the Black Aesthetics Movement, Black Arts Movement, publisher 
Askia Toure and Marvin X, co-founders of the Black Arts Movement
I am going to tell you just to cut to the chase, the most significant event I attended with Askia. We were at Spelman College in Atlanta and we were doing poetry readings. Askia was reading a poem about Venus and Serena Williams. He read that poem and of course it glorifies the ebony woman and everything that they represent. After he read this poem and applause broke out in the audience, we were afraid. I had never experienced applause like that as the response was like an earthquake. The whole room shook. I think Askia was afraid as well because it was so powerful. But that is the power of his work.” Marvin X a.k.a. El Muhajir, poet, playwright and essayist
We created the largest black cultural movement in the history of the United States. We created the black arts journals. We created over 20 journals of various regions of the United States from the east coast to the uni And yet there is no mention of that throughout the literature.
What really disturbs me is that the establishment would not deal with our work because you are dealing with a society that tries to ignore those contributions but the fact is that the black literary world would not exist without our movement and has romanticized the Harlem Renaissance. Because I came from the Umbra black magazine which came under the authority and guidance of Langston Hughes. So we always revered papa Langston but what you have now is assimilationist Negros who would not deal with their own heritage because. The movement was basically created by Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez and myself.
Later, there was Nikki Giovanni in Chicago due to Negro Digest Hoyt W. Fullard and Hakeem Donnell Reed and the writers and artists out of Chicago. It went out to the West Coast with Marvin X. Jackmon and Eldridge Cleaver. All across the country we were linked up. Out of New Orleans, it was John Dent. Umbra magazine was the message for all of that. We were all in it, in Chicago and Detroit and so forth. We put forth major movement. These assimilist Negros were ducking and dodging in the 1960’s until now.
See now? Askia Muhammad Toure’ is the spirit unrivalled in living and the spirit fleshed from ancient ruler to ruling griot, the times were not lost on him but made by him, enhanced by him, made whole by metaphysical knowings. How are we born? How will we die? Askia Toure is not concerned with that. The charlatans flee his presence. He knows the secrets and it is within how we live, enhanced by an eternal fire with no end, lighting days and ending nights. Black Pride! Fire that crushes the narcissism, barbarism and nihilism of capitalism. From the Niles to the Kilimanjaro, he carries within a barrel chest broad, the beat for generations- from Black Power Movement to Millennials carrying forth the fight for black liberation, from the pride of ancients, his is the voice carrying instruction. Black Panthers strut tall and long. From the tall grass of the Sahara to the Oakland, Chicago, Detroit and NYC urbans. From the Pyramids to the Streets of Harlem, his is instruction that will born Hip Hop, make the world spin like on boogie. Instruction that will born the new era hereto un-named. Instruction that will cleanse itself and renew the contract for our beautiful women, through whom travel the unborn, the unknown, the new heroes. King griot Askia Muhammad Toure’ - He is ours, a smile as broad as the heavens, dimples deep as waterfalls cascading. Our living, breathing liberation. No cheap commercial, this the real thang, a cosmic heart beating. His is the divine masculine, percolating territories from ancient kingdoms to afro- futuristic landscapes. In his palms, the palm lines are oceans and mountains, hereto un-named. Futures unfurling with great African names. A mystic preacher, metaphysical in form, his is the wisdom of the ages, the metaphysics of the sages, raging fierce for the divine feminine, every syllable uttered, a sly tryst increasing the entwinement betwix his masculine and her feminine. Oh, how Askia Muhammad Toure’ loves his woman. He loves his women as only black man with a black soul could. He would kill for his women but so much more powerful is his towering vulnerability and gentle soul, he will live for his black woman, and passage of time will not still this beautiful will. His is the terrible fire sweeping through towering myriad conscience, keeping us straight woke! His is the spirits and souls and tribal edicts of technologies that are coals waiting to be be lit by new soul, new knows, new millennials. Askia Muhammad Toure’s is the immortal soul of our beloved ancestor resurrected. A mythic figure beyond time.
She was blue(s), a deep indigo;/ her vital spirit vibrated/ an enchantment of cool silver,/ like a nightclub scenario:/the bloods blowing strong/ in every mellow key, reaching/ harmony on Duke’s “Satin Doll.”/ And the tonal/emotional nuances/ vibrated through one’s intimate/ universe. All of this embodied/ in her Solo: her Life Song, among/ dreams & vistas of subtle karma./ She was cool vibes by Milt,/Ramsey’s immaculate arpeggios/ echoing a vital sensuality/ of melanin realms “when dawns/ were young.” She was woman/ and myth—primal, elegant, splendid—reborn in puritan/ climes, among pioneers and/ corporate satraps, millennia/ from Napata; subtle regal cool.
Note: The Candaces were the female rulers of Kush, the only “Queendom” of recorded history. They challenged Rome, and attempted to liberate Kmt (Egypt) from Roman rule. Napata was their 1st capitol.

Askia Muhammad Touré Awards

  • 1989 American Book Award
  • 2000 Stephen E. Henderson Poetry Award for Dawnsong
  • 1996 Gwendolyn Brooks Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gwendolyn Brooks Institute like in Chicago, Illinois.


Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most.
  • African Affirmations: Songs for Patriots: New Poems, 1994 to 2004. Africa World Press. 2007. ISBN 978-1-59221-554-6
  • Dawnsong!: The Epic Memory of Askia Touré. Third World Press. 1999. ISBN 978-0-88378-209-5
  • From the Pyramids to the Projects: Poems of Genocide & Resistance!. Africa World Press. 1990. ISBN 978-0-86543-135-
  • Juju: Magic Songs for the Black Nation. Third World Press. 1972
  • Songhai. Songhai Press. 1972
  • Isis Unbound, the Goddess Songs (TO COME)

No comments:

Post a Comment