DJ 2wenty: We’re for the people. Nine times out of ten if the people want it, we do it.
Choice FM 92.1, is a radio station reaching Rocky Mount, Wilson, Oxford, Nashville, Zebulon, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham. Affiliated with the nationally syndicated Breakfast Club, they cover mainstream Hip Hop and R&B culture and music; locally, they lift up talent, events, opportunities, and businesses in rural communities of color throughout Eastern and Central North Carolina as well as the metro area. The station itself was originally called Soul 92 Jams, and offered one of the first spaces for black voices on radio in the area at its creation in 1974.
I sat down with DJ 2wenty and DJ Fatz, both of whom have been at the craft for decades, since the early eighties. DJ 2wenty eyed Soul 92 as the place for him well before he settled into his home at “The People’s Station”.
DJ 2wenty: I told the boss I’d be working here and he said they may not have enough room for me. I said, yeah, you do.
His time slots, role and experiences built from there and now, DJ 2wenty is at the studio six days a week, broadcasting and collaborating with other hosts, like DJ SoFabKim. DJ Fatz brings the Governor’s Mansion every weeknight, a three-hour set spanning current and classic black music. Both have shared stages and connected amongst the local and international DJ communities. As for live events, DJ Fatz and DJ 2wenty agree, the people “gotta come prepared to party.” So, when we talked about what DJs need to bring to the table:
DJ 2wenty: Music, know your equipment, and your sound. Because sound matters, it really matters.
DJ Fatz: I want people to hear what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, it’s like now people don’t really care about the sound, about the DJ being a real DJ – as far as transitioning a record into another record, the blending and scratching. We’re party-rocking DJs. We don’t wanna just stand behind what we use. I’m not bashing the technology change, cuz times have to change…
It’s like the disc jockey tradition blurs that line of the past and the potential. The atmosphere and experience a turntablist brings about can never be replicated. They scratch, flare, tear, and transform music deconstructing and rearranging to create new pieces, combining physical elements – vinyl, needle, motor, and their own hands – with unique style.
Durham in particular has a deep connection with the DJ tradition – before and including DJ Fatz, who’s originally from the Bull City.
DJ Fatz notes that for him, and for more and more folks DJing, it’s about combining the potential of current technology, with a deep knowledge of music and that equipment – digital, analog, or both.
If you didn’t know, turntabling is one of the pillars of hip hop culture, and these two live for the culture. Choice FM is keeping that creativity – and sharing it, interacting with the audience – at the forefront.
DJ 2wenty: I want to be the DJ that makes you dance, that has people singing along, lose their voice, take their shoes off cuz their feet hurt.
DJ Fatz and DJ 2wenty believe people are looking for just that, somewhere they can really release and dance – another innate element of hip hop. There’s this call for something more than a “social gathering”, as they put it. Nuanced, vibrant, innovative and deeply rooted black culture spans the rural and the metropolitan in this area. Rural communities of color are often overlooked, but the folks at Choice FM truly support the people throughout Eastern and Central NC.
Their abilities to broadcast over distance or bring an event to life, whether they be concerts, pool parties, or turntable battles, help keep the people connected, informed, and feeling free to move with the music.
DJ Fatz: We’ve been knowing each other now 20, 30 years. It was so amazing to come back and meet up with him and he’s in this type of setting. I’ve always been an African man, I want an urban radio station in this area. When choice came along it was like heaven on earth for me, because it allows us to be the DJs that we are. You got DJs at this station that respects the art and culture of DJing so when I come here to DJ, it feels like home.
Scroll to the top or head to Youtube to catch our full interview. You can also vibe with DJ 2wenty at The O in Wilson every Saturday and Tuesday, and DJ Fatz in Durham at Emerald City every Saturday.
You can reach DJ Fatz on Instagram, @djfatz72 or on Twitter, @djfatz_bcf.
“Humanity amongst the ruins of constant conflict” has become an ironic title, considering that the individual we featured turned out to be a digital ghost. We were catfished on this piece, along with The Telegraph, Wall Street Journal, Vice and several other outlets by the person who portrayed themselves as “Eduardo Martins”. He pulled us in with a compelling story of his experiences and the chance to share a perspective on parts of the world being ravaged as we speak through vivid photography – by stealing the work of true, seasoned photojournalists like Daniel Britt and the identity of a surfer in the UK named Max Hepworth-Povey.
After some reflection, my inclination is still to be grateful, as we are for anyone who shares their work, story, or perspective with us. Definitely a bit put off, but grateful for this reminder to immerse ourselves more deeply in the process of storytelling and the true connections that lay the foundation for it. This age of social media, with all the opportunity, information, and connection that it grants, demands that we are present and persistent in getting the story right. You can read up on the details of this impersonation in the Washington Post, BBC, Mashable, and other outlets. It points to the layers of falsified, biased, and manipulated “news” these days.
So, I want to first apologize to the photojournalists whose work was plagiarized, and the entire community in independent media. We do not pay for contributions to Recount Magazine and accepting payment for features or any other content is not yet in our business model, so we exchanged nothing with “Eduardo Martins”, to be clear. At the same time, this person’s betrayal of the craft, creative work, and serious costs of photojournalism has leeched onto us here and for that I also apologize to the artists, activists, and other folks we have featured.
Finally, to our readers, in the year since that piece, and as we continue, we seek to grow by varying our content and producing more thorough pieces, and by digging deeper with the real people creating, organizing, documenting, and building out in the world. I wasn’t sure what to do at first knowledge of this. Since the revelation, we have taken measures to be more hands-on in engaging our readers and subjects, so stay tuned for what’s to come and please email your feedback to us at email@example.com.
Please note: Although several outlets have removed their coverage of “Eduardo Martins”, we have kept the piece, “Humanity Amongst the Ruins of Constant Conflict” up on our website to date, as originally published (with photography redacted as of September 10th), to facilitate the content of outlets exposing “Eduardo Martins” as a fraud to readers across the world. This is no endorsement of his actions, but we hope it serves as a documentation of his betrayal, evidence of his false claims, and ongoing reminder to be thorough as journalists, writers, editors, and content creators.
Here’s a few thoughts and reads on the status of the ongoing debate and what’s at stake (before you head to the comment section of the Federal Communications Commission).
The “internet of things”, the creator market, the gig economy, and free speech are threatened by the reversal of net neutrality.
I came across a thought-provoking post the other day, elaborating on the difference between IRL and “in-person”. Much of the internet, for better or worse, is real life. So this is a time to acknowledge that the internet is a substantial resource, and that lacking access or reliability from the internet seriously impacts people’s access to educational, physical, health-related, and employment resources for many. Sure, it’s all complicated. But it has enabled entrepreneurship and organizing in solidarity amongst marginalized groups, made long-distance, quality healthcare available through telemedicine – and much of that mobilization and innovation is threatened if net neutrality ceases. So, this debate, and its outcome, will deeply impact our daily lives – we’ve got to act accordingly.
The focus in the United States right now is another installment in the back and forth between the FCC and FTC, representing telecommunications and trade of information services.
Essentially, if you care about accessibility and quality of the Internet – broadband, download and upload speeds, streaming services, privacy – you should consider yourself vested in the “battle for the net” and make it clear that you are pro net-neutrality. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai promises that there is little evidence of telecommunications giants and corporate service providers intervening or manipulating the control they have over the openness of the Internet – we disagree. Read up.
The American Civil Liberties Union gets to the point in “What is Net Neutrality?” and this timeline from TechCrunch provides a meatier history. We’ve been at this since the sixties! It’s a reminder that technology develops and evolves exponentially, and we must stay involved.
Legislation like this is affecting the privacy and freedom of consumers across the world, and there are steps you can take a more proactive and protected user.
So this bill is called “Restoring Internet Freedom”… and though some may be resigned to Uncle Sam’s eye all up in their Drive, that Orwellian title should beg several questions. We took our questions to Hammy Havoc last year.
It’s time to get personal – the most effective comments come from your experience.
As well-put and informative as the drafted comments are, take some time to relate what open internet and consumer protections mean to you – that is, why access to quality Internet should be the norm, in your opinion.
You can send multiple comments, and with personal statements there’s some variety on record and we can guard against disregard on the grounds of automation. Here’s a helpful piece on how to draft a meaningful and effective message to the FCC.
It’s easy to spread the word.
And vital. Start with the social media- (and aesthetic-) friendly graphics below, crafted by the folks at battleforthenet.com, where you can post a comment, get more information and guidance in efforts to preserve net neutrality individually and collectively.
You are not alone, there have been open letters, youtube videos, and even some of the largest web companies and platforms (Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Netflix) are on the people’s side, helping to make voices heard. Join in, the site is open for rebuttal comments until August 17th!
“My art comes from a dark place,” wrote Charvis, when we asked him to share about his process and introduce himself.
We all know the saying meant to push us through times of intense adversity and ongoing challenges: “that which doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger”. But if you ask him, “it’s more appropriate to say that which doesn’t kill you – but comes close – will change your life in a way you aren’t equipped to imagine. That is where my art comes from.”
The man behind the artwork hails from Macon, Georgia, where he and his creative expression have grown through times of prosperity, pain, and processing.
“The hardest part of doing any piece is getting past myself, until recently I would too often drink 125 ounces of cheap beer between in the middle of the morning just to get my brain past this one word I learned the hard way: sarcoidosis.
This lung disease inflames and weighs on people between the ages of 20 and 50 at times temporarily, at times permanently. In response to the environment – chemicals, bacteria – it’s as if stimulated and drained all at once, it seems.
“It started in the summer of 2004, I felt as if I came down with a real bad cold. One day at work I felt like I couldn’t make it anymore so I went to the hospital. They took my blood and after a misdiagnosis of AIDS, tuberculosis, and other illnesses my body mimicked, until they finally did a biopsy and came to the proper result of sarcoidosis. Until that moment I was a construction worker as my father was and his father was, and art was something I did on rainy days to relax.”
As most are, Charvis was into crayons and such as a kid, and it was when he saw The Artifacts, Wrong Side of Da Tracks, that he intentionally made visuals his own, “I never got anywhere close to putting up a burner, but I had a real sick tag. I put it up everywhere I could in Sharpie and every once in awhile I’d get a can of some real cheap paint and try to do bigger stuff, but I must admit I wasn’t that good at that.” Still, he continued to draw, and during the healing process from a car accident at the age of 21, he felt led to paint – big, using mistints from the hardware store and higher grade paints, to highlight.
This mosaic is an homage to Charvis’ upbringings in the church and career as a mason. “Doing construction with my father gave me a sense that anything was possible. Taking part in the completion of a building from the erecting of the foundation until turning over the keys makes you aware that you can make anything out of the materials you have with the right knowledge. My mother was the same way with sewing and plays and productions so I was surrounded by people who could turn plain objects into whatever they desired.”
He calls his early work “awful art, self-taught garbage where the background appeared to be an afterthought painted around the subject.” Four months after his sarcoidosis diagnosis, a house fire led to a new beginning and a “valuable lesson that when you own nothing you possess everything you need.” That fire claimed almost all of his artwork and most of his good friend and thought partner Jermaine Causey’s as well.
At that point, he says, “I began to produce art with a serious intent to flaunt some of my greatest possessions: my perception and sympathy for the people without power to speak for themselves. My art became much better and I started to show my work.”
That perception and sympathy combine to feed his work with honesty – essential when seeking to understand stories that are not your own, and to reinforce that there are dimensions to every person’s story.
“I thank God for every moment and I know compared to so many other diseases it could be much worse, but the reality is, sometimes it’s hard for me to use my talents – often I wake around two or three in the morning, covered in sweat, nauseated, tired, and achy with my brain racing from me.”
That’s where the process often begins for him, waking to the darkness of morning then immersing into “research, research, and more research”, watching documentaries or Art21, a series on the art of the people of our century, until dawn. If he’s called to draw that day, he’ll do that, or paint, until midday. He shared that lately, though, he’s been devoting more of that energy to the writing process.
At his father’s recent passing, Charvis came across a collection of old poetry that he is in the process of self publishing, entitled “cartoon violence”, and his murder mystery, titled, “The Butcher, The Baker, and The Cupcakemaker Bot” is well underway. You can find the introduction to it on Twitter, under the name butchbakemake. “I’ve gotten some great feedback, so lately I’ve been focusing more of my creative energy on writing, but I still find space to paint every week.”
Volunteering at the Tubman Museum, before it became one of the biggest museums of African American art in the Southeastern United States gave him a rare chance to become extremely intimate with great works of art. He mentions the curator, Jeffrey Bruce, in particular, who “went above and beyond his way to be more than generous with his knowledge and expertise, which I still seek and appreciate”.
Tony Harris, creator of Iron Man and Ex Machina, also helped Charvis to develop. Harris was open to Charvis’ questions on general art, tools, techniques and ways to make comics appear professional. “The amazing thing is that as great as his art is, he was one of the least absorbed artists I’ve ever met. Everything was about Rockwell and how he constantly worked and reworked a painting, doing the same painting three or four times, his ability to tweak characters and bring about details that he invited and his ability to use the people around him resonate to an entire nation.”
So perhaps, growth is about the people that substantiate the space around us, challenging limits and illuminating possibilities to the artist, the self, within. It comes forth in the art as well, influencing strokes, nurturing subjects, inviting collaborators.
“I just finished probably my best show yet with Jermaine Causey and Nik Nerburn. I’ve been doing art with Jermaine since kindergarten and anytime you see one of my pieces you’re seeing conversations between Jermaine and I that led to that work. Nik is a new friend of ours, a photographer we just began to work with, and he is a perfect fit to counterbalance our style and add the personal touches that brings everyday people into the spotlight.”
The Ampersand Guild Hall, or The [&] Guild Hall, was the ideal location for the installation and his paintings. It is a family-owned, artist-run space committed to fostering community amongst people of all backgrounds in a place that badly needed a watering hole for creative vision. It is the only venue in Macon where artists of different races consistently put on shows together, presenting narratives that subvert the idyllic Southern comfort driving segregation and inequity.
You’ll feel his comfort working with space, physical or philosophical. You’ll see it in the way he utilizes elements like shadow and the coincident construction, the way he challenges the means and nature of interactions between people.
So together, Harrell, Causey, and Nerburn set out to shine light on folks shrouded in socially-constructed shadows, wrongly characterized by their oppression. Perhaps to educate some, in the visceral way that art does, and certainly to remind “others” that their multiple facets are seen, they matter, they are appreciated.
“Just a reminder of what it’s like to be young and free”
In recent months, sarcoidosis has begun to affect Charvis’ eyes, and he will tell you, “I spend too much time thinking that if sarcoidosis takes my vision – how can I produce my art from an even darker place?”
It should be noted, though, that there are very real things that the eyes can’t reveal, that the mind won’t accept. Not without intention or passion or persistence, or all three. This artist expresses a pure dedication to muddling through the elusive with the rest of us.
Now, a recap of the show at his favorite hometown venue, [&] Guild Hall, through the lens of Ariel Robbins at Essentia Arts Photography.
On Wahooism, the reduction of Native American culture to convenient and reductive symbols with aggressive connotations – especially offensive given historical to current practices of oppressing indigenous people in the United States.
What questions do you want people to ask themselves when they look at this?
“How comfortable are you with using an entire race as a mascot? How would I feel if this was my race on a banner? Would you be offended if there was a team named the yellow skins depicting an Asian with skin the color banana yellow? The biggest misconception of all is you have a team named the Indians with a Native of this land depicted with a bright red skin tone smiling ear to ear. Now I changed the race to an actual Indian is it appropriate now? Wahooism.”
This is a companion piece to the red, white, and blue banner, it is a painting of “Wah-Tho-Huk” though most people know him as Jim Thorpe, an all-American. As a child he was forced to attend a normalizing school where Americans separated him from his family, culture, language, and even the very name his parents gave him – all under the pressure to be acceptable to America. He excelled in all sports and was even an NCAA ballroom dancing champ, but lived a hard, broke life, ending up forced to be a laborer. To this day, his accolades go unrecognized officially.
The controversy of this – the treatment of indigenous people in popular culture – is one that historical victors would like to have us overlook. It’s especially insulting when collective consent to Wahooism just amplifies the systemic violence and disregard for Native Americans currently displayed. Consider the tribal land seizures to make way for destructive oil pipeline construction in the corporate interest at Standing Rock and throughout the US.
Charvis takes it all head-on, pushing viewers beyond the comfortable narratives constructed for us. Experiences in that space beyond norms is vital this time of “alternative facts” and convenient misinformation, in which people are collectively confused about how we got here and where we’re headed. His work feels like a reminder to continue to question and to nurture those spaces beyond norms – regardless of the aforementioned current political dynamics in the United States, maybe even in spite of.
It seems the ‘danger’ is learning, says Charvis
I’m interpreting this as a commentary on rape culture and consumerism, but what statements lie behind that yell, when you revisit this piece?
It’s more so on the popular rap culture. It’s part of a series called “ With the jawbone of an ass.” It references Samson killing a bunch of people, but considers how we kill our love for each other and ourselves through our constant degrading of women and our love for things with people names on it. Artists that don’t challenge themselves tend to fall into a machine of cliches.
It’s as if 90% of the mainstream rappers love Jordans, needs a chain, smoke the best, make it rain on them hoes, got that stick, whip game, flip it, my goons so grimey, pop them bottles, hoes be loving, my ice got me froze, and the names of various products with white people’s names on them, bitches be sucking. If you listen to most of the subpar rap, you can point to an image coming out of the mouth of the subject I painted. For almost every lyric.
The shadow play is so interesting, how’d you account for location and the sun for this installation piece?
“This piece commemorates the meeting and process of working with Ed Woodham and Samantha Hill. They were resident artists who were fired for working with the actual residents of a location they were asked to work in, instead of helping to tell a false narrative of people who weren’t part of the actual neighborhood.” Maya Mackrandilal writes about it all in The Impossibility of Art.
“Sam once asked me if I could use one word to describe my art and my message I’m trying to convey, what would it be. ‘Hate.’ The look on her and Ed’s face was priceless. Hate can be one of the strongest forces you encounter in your life. To illustrate my idea I carved the words rise with arrows pointing up and Bree Newsome at the bottom climbing the flagpole in South Carolina taking down the confederate flag. It shows how a hate for something can make you rise up to do a beautiful thing. Light is an important function of this piece, at the right time it shows that the things you do will cast a shadow bigger than you are.”
Keep up with Charvis Harrell on Instagram (@charviszharrell).
Amidst statements that this is only a spike in reporting, Derrica Wilson finds the community’s fears to be valid. Wilson is co-founder of and a spokesperson for Black & Missing Foundation (BAM FI), an organization working to spread awareness of and locate missing people of color. Viewing the chart above, keep in mind that the rate of those missing must be viewed relative to the size of the population. The US is 73% white, so it’s clear, about a quarter of the population – Black, Asian, Native, Latinx – is disappearing at an alarming rate.
As people who care and for those who see ourselves in this – how can we provide for and protect missing cis and trans women and girls of color in the US?
This is happening currently, every day.
Some will be runaways seeking refuge, or fleeing abuse. The girls missing from DC have drawn our attention to missing youth in particular, and rightly so. Cis and trans young women ages 11 to 17 make up approximately 75 percent of the runaway population. The National Runaway Safeline also reports that a range of 1.7 to 2.8 million runaway and homeless youth live on the street each year.
At the same time, social media postings of missing kids can help bring them home faster. That’s especially true for teenagers. Their peers are more likely to see the alert and can notify police and those searching of any information they have. Derrica Wilson of BAM FI encourages us all to pay attention to missing persons reports and outreach efforts on social media.
Maybe we could more intentionally build with the young people around us. If you’re interested in volunteering try mentorship, get out in the community. They need to be listened to – as they all do. Life lacks stability sometimes, and it can be extra difficult as a young person. We don’t need to have it all together to share an ear and some experiences.
Seeking safe spaces
Some are afraid to disclose their personal beliefs and preferences, for fear that family would take issue. It’s the pregnant teenager, or someone struggling with expressing their sexual and/or gender identity. Teens are new to finding their place in the world and though they are resilient, sexism, racism, and transphobia are turning their insides too. So they run away when they can find no one to turn to without fear of judgment, or worse. And to whom? Where? The reality is, asKimberly of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) says, “outside of community, there are no safe spaces”.
While we’re on connections – language can go a long way. In every day you can instill the use of Latinx in place of Latino or Latina, to support awareness, visibility, and acknowledgement for the gender nonconforming. It’s an extension of using “they/them/their” instead of assuming “his/her” identification amongst LGBTQ+ and allies. You can invite a safe space with your presence and help others do the same. It’ll continue to spread through conversation, verbal and written communication, and social media. (No excuses – the APA just recognized “they” as a singular pronoun.) I may have digressed there, but it’s about willingly shifting to a more inclusive society, starting with the narrative.
The public has to be more aware, inclusive, and active than ever in this time of heightened violence against people of color and the lgbtq+ community, redundant mainstream media, and building institutional oppression. Part of the response to the recent burst of black and latinx girls disappearing in DC is termed as a “perceived increase”. It feels a bit dismissive, like there’s an assumption these lives will pass from mattering in the public eye.
We must stay raising awareness about our missing cis and trans young women of color and issues facing them. Since there’s always been a significant disparity in how much they are reported and efforts to find them, we’ve got ground to cover, wouldn’t you say?
So let’s say their names, keep an eye out for others, and integrate living, thriving safe spaces wherever we can. Maybe then we could find them before they ever go missing.
Mananiko Amarilla Kobakhidze lives and studies as a graphic designer and illustrator in Tbilisi, Georgia. At 25, she shares the belief that we all encounter and harbor inner selves as often as other human beings. Her work accentuates these beings – and ways of being – in familiar form, inviting us to see we all experience them. We asked her to share her thoughts on giving life to our monsters, and share a bit about her process for some of our favorites:
So, you work with physical printmaking, as well as graphic design, photography, and illustration. Is that right? What medium have you been playing with most these days?
It all started with photography, long before printmaking and illustration. I tend to make very graphical and defined colors, movement was a key, not “poetic beauty” or “fine art” (painting). Then I passed all exams to art school and there was less and less time for photography, eventually I became obsessed with book illustration and poster design and graphic design. Drawing in any expressible way is my playground today.
What influences do you feel most often growing up and now studying in Georgia?
Hm, think I stay aside of cultural stuff and that’s why I think my illustration or works are sometimes not fully understood, I just don’t like to be in step with the flow.
We share your love for Stranger Things, and people rave about various components – the font, the soundtrack. What makes the show meaningful to you?
The 80’s are my favorite :)) It’s like the era of color in the 21st century. Dresses, accessories, music everything – the show is like my favorite 80’s ^_^
What other narratives, media, or creators inspire you?
Ballet, music, movies, books, people in the streets, sounds, everything. It’s like a tickle for my brain and then everything expresses itself on paper.
Stop watering dead flowers, girl
How long have you illustrated? Have you created any self-illustrations?
I’ve been drawing since childhood, mostly I was “just drawing”. After Academy it became more serious. So I’ve been illustrating for 6 years I guess 🙂 Mostly they all are my self-portraits, inner self ones, from what I see and hear.
Lost Space Invader
There’s such rich feeling in your work. Are characters based on people you’ve encountered?
They all are real, just they all are reflections of what I see, and there’s a part of me in them as I said before.
“Monsters” keep making an appearance so I have to ask, can you describe the characteristics that invoke that for you? What makes for a “monster” in this world?
Monsters are friendly characters, if you remember Where the Wild Things Are? “There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen” – Maurice Sendak. Those monsters are things to happen and a place is my paper. They are really friendly, just a real side of every human being, which we shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid of. We hide monsters and sometimes, they are much more beautiful than we think they are.
Sea monsters are still alive
Der Himmel Uber Berlin
Could you translate this caption? What inspired this?
It was a school assignment to make posters, so I did this one based on Der Himmel Uber Berlin (“The Heavens/Sky Over Berlin”, “Wings of Desire”). I think this was my first attempt to make a monster, to show one and to tell a story about angels hiding from us, not seen.
What were you envisioning as you designed this poster of Trump? What do you think might come next?
Well, it’s going to be an everlasting, idiotic political game he’s going to play and I think the whole world is just TRUMPED because what the United States does influences every single country. If a crazy non-political, selfish man is going to rule a country full of possibilities it’s going to be a disaster. I tried to make it a bit funny that way.
We’ve talked about street art in Tbilisi before, and the shift to street marketing you witnessed. How do you think artists can collaborate with businesses toward profitable and genuine work?
Most of the artists are denying paid jobs, but it’s still hard if you want to make a living out of what you do. So you have to compromise, between paid work and what’s really a reflection of oneself.
How do you balance professional and personal expression in your design workflow? What makes it difficult? Where are some natural intersections?
Sometimes I do a very boring job, but I still try to make intersections between what I really want to express and do and what I’m doing at my job or other paid work. It’s a miracle if you are paid for your art and a great pleasure, but mostly I feel framed if I’m not working for myself. So I hope it will change, or I will change it. But there are some places for “crazy people” like me :))
Hammy Havoc is a multi-faceted cypherpunk writer based in Liverpool, United Kingdom. We had to have him tell us more about how he – and others – can practice what he preaches; cypherpunks are advocates for social and political change via strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies. Cypherpunk principles tie in directly to his workflows as CEO of Split An Atom and Previous Magazine, Co-Founder of Voidance Records, and producer as The Orion Correlation (he makes all of the stems for his music available to download for free so that anybody can remix it as they see fit – soon, he’ll be open sourcing the project files themselves).
No doubt, he has cultivated a self-made, open-source approach, which extends to his conceptions of the social contract and citizens’ rights to privacy. With the recent passage of the Investigatory Powers Bill in the UK and consideration of Rule 41 in the US, these ideas hold particular import. In the US, January marks a shift from the current, subtly enforced police surveillance state, to an administration driven by archaic allegiance to “law and order” and fascist groupthink actively working to normalize suspecting and violating the rights and security of the “other” for sake of said order. At the end of the day, Hammy shares, the implications we have to consider as our lives and livelihoods are increasingly integrated to the use of technology and access the Internet are always personal, public, and political.
When did these issues of privacy and security become personal for you?
When I first started being censored in countries I had never even visited– then countries I had, followed by the UK, where I currently live. Writing and talking about concepts that scare governments like real freedom of press and speech, with permanence of information through decentralization, are things that individuals and organizations with a specific agenda would like to kill.
Share with us how your understanding of these concepts manifest politically. Did the politics of security and privacy pique your interest initially?
I’m fortunate enough to have been using computers since I was two years old when my parents put me in a computer class in New Brighton; I’ve been online since I was four years old. I’ve seen a lot of things change with the internet over the years, some for better, some for worse. I was abused as a child at my first school, since then I’ve had a very keen sense of whether or not something made me feel uncomfortable, and some of the changes with technology have made me feel very uncomfortable.
In Germany, there are already banks who will not give you a mortgage if you aren’t on Facebook; they want to research the financial background of people you know as well as yourself, and this is used in their decision. That’s an abuse of information and privacy right there. This is just the start of a scary spiral.
On censorship and control:
Facebook began censoring me a few months ago when I started showing people the ways in which they were under surveillance; they actually suspended my account until I went to the press after Fortune Magazine, The Sun and The Huffington Post picked up on one of my opinions. Very recently, Twitter has started to censor me as well, just for recommending software and hardware that respect privacy and freedom.
There are more security cameras in Britain than anywhere else in the world, yet the places that actually need them, like schools and university campuses, either don’t have them or don’t have enough of them to catch thieves, rapists and other unpleasant individuals. Ironically, rights being taken from us and privacy being invaded is supposed to protect us from these problems, but the data being gathered isn’t being used effectively by the people who gather it. Recently, an activist called Deric Lostutter hacked his university website to gather incriminating evidence on two rapists, and has been getting some media attention—he is facing sixteen years in prison for hacking, whereas the two rapists are walking away with no punishment. Lostutter shouldn’t have been forced to hack their website, the university should have had been able to provide the evidence themselves as it was their own system. This is the society we are living in; where hackers are treated as being more dangerous than murderers, rapists, and pedophiles because they have the capacity to change society, as well as the world.
Would you be okay with a country where your son or daughter could be facing a decade in prison for something as simple as copyright infringement, probably even inadvertently through YouTube, or sending their friend a song or film? That could be the reality you’re about to be living in with the Digital Economy Bill.
What does a more digitally free/open-source society look like? Any artistic or literary references come to mind?
Decentralizing all infrastructure.
Hammy Havoc recommends The Minority Report if you’re trying to envision the nightmare of a society that searches for patterns in your data to draw a conclusion of your intent. The short story was originally published here in Fantastic Universe in 1956. Source: Wikipedia.
In terms of likening it to literature, you can have a mixture of George Orwell’s 1984 and The Minority Report with pre-crime, or you can choose to attempt to make the future more akin to Libertatia at a minimum. If people want to understand what’s happening right now, then look to the documentary We Live in Public, about a project taking on surveillance through art in 1999. Liken the commune to Facebook, and you’re most of the way there with the analogy.
These tools protect whistleblowers. You may have nothing that you ever need to hide from the government, the police, your employer, or even your spouse, but certain algorithmic correlations can be made with this data. If there’s a murder with garden shears and you unfortunately bought a pair just before it was committed, then you’re on the suspect list, and you could quite likely be falsely accused and fitted up with the crime by correlating other data gathered on you because statistics now matter more than truth and justice.
“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say,” is a currently infamous quote by Edward Snowden that perfectly summarizes society’s general attitude towards privacy. In my opinion, Snowden deserves a presidential pardon, without a shadow of a doubt—as do several others.
Ironically, rights being taken from us and privacy being invaded is supposed to protect us from these problems, but the data being gathered isn’t being used effectively by the people who gather it.
In another direction, I’ve been hearing and reading more about open source coding projects that have an element of civic engagement – crowdsourcing (usually locally) the capacity to make government information / public data more accessible via a mobile application. What are your thoughts on the viability of those efforts and the connection between participation, transparency, and access to information?
Wikipedia works phenomenally well as a crowdsourced encyclopedia. Imagine if that became decentralized; the necessary donations to operate would be far less, and Wikipedia could have guaranteed permanence within society.
Open-source works, there’s no denying it now. The Recount Magazine website runs on an open-source content management system; as do the majority of sites I have anything to do with.
If a government is truly for the people, and by the people, then transparency is an absolute necessity, but the British and American government give with one hand, and take with another. The Investigatory Powers Bill (“Snoopers’ Charter”) and GCHQ’s DNS firewall are to supposedly protect the public, yet I feel that if these things are allowed to happen then more harm will happen because of it. The government can attempt to stop would-be terrorists from communicating online, but the reality is that any radical with a few brain cells to rub together probably discusses plans in-person to avoid the surveillance that has already been happening for years on end through PRISM, and even old-school wiretapping.
I believe that if the UK didn’t interfere in countries and with cultures they don’t understand then we wouldn’t have this apparent terrorism threat. There’s always money for bombs and bullets for the British government to meddle elsewhere, but there’s never enough money to get people off the streets in Britain, provide an education system that competes with Africa, China, and other previous third world countries, or to make sure that our disabled populace isn’t forced into suicide from having their benefits taken from them.
As always, it is the majority who pays the price for the actions of the few. The actions of my country’s government do not reflect my wishes, or the wishes of a lot of people here.
To other artists interested in utilizing copyleft to distribute their music out there…
Do you, as a creator who spends a significant amount of time and money, wish to be compensated? Can you pay your bills without guaranteed compensation? These are questions that everybody considering copyleft needs to chew over.
Merchandise and partnerships with brands are ultimately the way to make a music career viable in this day and age, and the same applies to any creators considering copyleft.
Streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music are highly toxic, in my opinion, especially when exclusivity creeps into the equation. I feel it is better to give away your music and starve the parasites and middlemen of the industry than to accept $50 per million plays, because realistically speaking, the average artist is going to struggle to even reach $50 let alone break even on a record or pay their bills with streaming alone.
Sometimes it is worth trading convenience and off-the-shelf readiness for the sake of actually having control of your computer. Prevention is better than cure.
The cypherpunk movement has been in existence since the 1980s, for nearly 40 years – who and what from the movement has inspired your advocacy along the way?
Observing the many ingenious ways that individuals and groups have managed to subvert control over the years is something that has, and will always fascinate me. Whether it’s a simple tool, a new method of encryption, or long-range radio, there’s no stopping the movement now.
Richard Stallman is a great inspiration to my advocacy, sacrificing convenience for freedom without compromise. If my career didn’t depend on certain aspects of the internet and computers, then I would be able to commit as strongly as he has. I always choose libre software whenever possible, and if I can’t find a libre tool then I’ll use an open-source one, develop one myself, or ask a commercial company if I can audit their source.
Almost everybody that I encounter ends up changing their workflows after I point out the problems and potential issues. Some even become privacy advocates themselves, such as my girlfriend, Mary Ann Mahoney; she uses an entirely open-source writing workflow that respects her privacy. The fellow co-founder of Voidance Records, Lost & Found, has even begun to replace his workflow with both libre and open-source solutions to match my own. Sometimes it is worth trading convenience and off-the-shelf readiness for the sake of actually having control of your computer. Prevention is better than cure.
What would facilitate people being able to take their privacy and security into consideration in their daily lives? What is the standard for that or some first steps to making it personal, actionable, integrated at home?
If the general public does not utilize these technologies for protecting their privacy, then the technologies, the ability to opt-out, and their privacy and rights will be taken from them. As criminals and terrorist factions begin to gravitate towards these tools, the negative connotations surrounding a particular protocol or piece of software begins. You only need look at the stigma of BitTorrent and any P2P application to this day to understand this. Even now, we are seeing this with the criminalization of Tor.
The media is associating Bitcoin with Silk Road and other drug marketplaces that have replaced it, but the reality is that Bitcoin is more than just capitalism with a digital currency; it doesn’t matter what you’re buying as long as you’re using it and recommending it. Decentralizing currency is a big deal because it disrupts the status quo of financial centralization with banks, mints et cetera.
What does that look like?
Ditch the modem your Internet service provider (ISP) gave you when you signed up, as it is probably backdoored, and easily hacked by script kiddies— get a high-end one that you can change the firmware on; if you don’t have root then you don’t have control. Build yourself a pfSense or OPNsense firewall/router or buy one that’s already made. Aside from security, you’ll also have a far faster internet connection as a result.
Stop centralizing your information on third party servers like Dropbox and Google Drive. Buy an off-the-shelf solution or a Raspberry Pi to install Nextcloud. That is the absolute bare minimum of convenience and security that the majority of technophobes can manage. This way, if you are ever compromised or hacked, then stopping a transfer of data is as simple as pulling the plug, and physically destroying the data is possible. If you are a whistleblower, then use an air gapped computer alongside Tails. Off-the-shelf solutions like SilentKeys are a great option for this. Make sure that the journalists you leak to are using a system such as SecureDrop, which we’re now adopting at Previous Magazine, meaning that our sources can remain anonymous.
Don’t use fingerprint, eye, or facial recognition to unlock your devices as you can be physically forced into unlocking them by police. Use passwords, and encrypt your devices.
If a business you buy from accepts Bitcoin, try to use it whenever possible. Encourage businesses to accept Bitcoin, or if you run a business, start accepting Bitcoin. Bitcoin may not end up being the answer to financial anonymity and money as a concept, but it needs to be used to gain further acceptance. If small mom-and-pop businesses and giants like Microsoft can accept Bitcoin, then you have no excuse for not offering it as a payment method. My record label, Voidance Records, accepts Bitcoin as a payment method. We even accept it as a payment method at Split An Atom, my integrated marketing agency.
So, as a business person – an entrepreneur and CEO – and anti-surveillance capitalism. Make the business case for companies utilizing PETs.
As a CEO I’ve been recommended to track users in specific ways using specific tools and sell the data to specific organizations to build a larger profile on people, but I have always chosen to respect our customers, and I encourage clients of ours to do the same when we are building solutions for them. If you wouldn’t be okay with it being done to you, then don’t do it to others.
Likewise, security is ever-important; if people are entrusting their privacy to you, then you need to take that responsibility very seriously. When a business doesn’t take the steps required to protect the information of their customers, then they usually lose their trust forever. I’ve had countless emails from companies telling me they’ve been compromised and that I need to change my password on any site that I’ve used the same password on.
Dropbox was hacked in 2012 and they’re still feeling the hurt from that. In September of this year, they reset the password of everybody who hadn’t changed it since then as they discovered their passwords were compromised after the hack all those years ago. I’m currently helping clients to transition away from Dropbox and centralized storage solutions like that. I’m CTO (Chief Technology Officer) as well at Integrated Movements Arts, a London-based personal training and online fitness company. We treat user data with utmost respect as we are dealing with health data, and very sensitive information regarding their bodies. Everything is encrypted to a military grade; we have state of the art security for the confidential information of our users, and this gives us a big edge on any of our competition.
There is a lot of money to be made selling information, but users would rather pay for privacy and an ad-free experience, as is being proven time and time again. Look at Hulu: no free, ad-supported plan anymore.
Remember, if something costs nothing then you are usually the product and your information being mined. If you want to keep secrets then make no digital record of them, and try to keep them in your head.
We started off discussing Monsanto on slightly damp benches. Dani’s disdain for the company’s careless disruption of the natural flow of things quickly shifted into the group’s deep appreciation for the deliciousness of ugly fruit, specifically blood oranges from earlier in the summertime. “GMO OMG.”, she recommended, “It’s on Netflix.”.
Pie Face Girls at Tactile Workshop for The Hopscotch Oasis. Dani on guitar, Tiffany on bass, Klay on drums.
I ran into the Raleigh-based band at The Hopscotch Oasis, a day party for the festival hosted by Tactile Workshop. Perfectly comfortable, super sweaty, and thoroughly entertaining on the half-pipe stage, they let us know right off the bat, “we are an angry band.” Throughout the show they chatted openly with us about the festival, giving context to songs about catcalling, birth control, and white male privilege via Tinder. They also paid homage to the anti-HB2 banner displayed by Grayson and Tina Haver Currin and verbally harangued Gov. Pat McCrory. Everyone seemed to feel at home tucked away in the lush little backyard of Tactile Workshop, talking about real, impolite, human things. It was refreshing. North Carolina’s citizens, reputation, and economy remain marred by HB2, the discriminatory, anti-LGBT legislation passed with shady swiftness earlier this year. In the state’s capital, Hopscotch was a 3-day, 3-night invitation to explore music venues and vibes that felt worlds away from the North Carolina state legislature and wary of standing in its bigotry-tinged shadow.
At the Hopscotch Oasis that Saturday, Klay put it precisely – “Hopscotch is evil because they make you choose.” Hailing from Durham, I have spent a sporadic, limited time in Raleigh, and rarely spent it frolicking and Hopscotch was a great chance to bop around the city and its venues. I imagine it was that much harder to choose from this year’s impressive lineup while listed on it, to play three shows throughout the weekend. Pie Face Girls pulled through it, though. The band wistfully recalled Big Freedia and Erykah Badu, noting that in addition to favorites and legends like those, Hopscotch curates a strong, eclectic range of genres. Festival-goers could check out any artist for a solid show, and “it might push you outside of the zone that you anticipated,” Klay pointed out. Keep in mind, 40% of the 120-band Hopscotch lineup is local. Pie Face Girls made a point to shout out the experimental noise of Patrick Gallagher out of Carrboro, NC and all the artists they played with throughout the weekend, including Durham’s JooseLord Magnus at The Hopscotch Oasis. I missed JooseLord’s performance, but observed the mutual enthusiasm they had for a future collaboration following the show and immediately wanted to get to learn more about them both.
So, Pie Face Girls met me in Raleigh for an interview and as we discussed the challenges of navigating the vast Twitter community and the process of building ideas into action, we landed on a conversation about how the band are growing into themselves. Tiffany described this past year as the one where she realized that they could truly spread their reach and stand on their own, though “in the beginning, it was fun and games.” Now, they are looking to sustain themselves with what they love, acknowledging that it takes time.
Their straightforward statements, like those in “Fuck You, I’m Pretty” and the mantra, “Dick is Dead” really resonate with people – at The Hopscotch Oasis, it was like one big conversation. At the same time, Dani pointed out, entrepreneurship and marketing demand their own skills and are necessary for growth. Seeking that growth can feel farcical after years of creating and performing solely for the love of it. Surely, they do not want to sell out, but I’d assume that would be difficult for the members of Pie Face Girls – authenticity is part of their essence. Defiant honesty and self-knowledge course through their sound; their presence is a cool, collected indignation that reminds you, “if you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention.”
They are definitely paying attention.
The group posted up at Ruby Deluxe’s NC Pride Dance Party in Raleigh to register voters a few days after we talked, and has played alongside NC Music Love Army to raise money for efforts against HB2. The Love Army performs in protest, and “in support of sane governance for North Carolina”. Proceeds from these shows go to community and advocacy organizations Equality NC, LGBT Center of Raleigh and Now or Never NC. Pie Face Girls recently played the Official Afterparty following Come Out and Show Them: A Benefit to Take Back Our State. The proceeds from that festival went to Common Cause NC, Democracy North Carolina, Southerners on New Ground and Come Out and Show Them’s efforts to keep activist artists’ shows in the state in order to redirect the funds for the work of repealing HB2.
Tiffany, Dani, and Klay at Ruby Deluxe, handing out sexual health resources and getting people registered to vote.
Another way you’ll find Pie Face Girls in the mix could be a collective or record label for musicians in marginalized communities to come together – queer artists, trans and cis female artists and artists of color. North Carolina does not offer that in music production yet and the corrupt politics of this state only reinforce the need for such a space. As the idea grows, they are seeking collaborators that want to make a similar impact. Klay and Tiffany joked about whether they were included in the plans, and without missing a beat, Dani confirmed. At one point, she looked at them, then to me and said, “your fam is your support system.” They were quick to thank multiple bands, community members, and artist-activists for encouraging them from the beginning and as they’ve grown thus far, shouting out the staple Raleigh venue, Kings.
I had to ask, then, about the label on their ReverbNation profile from earlier on, “Do it your damn self”. It’s an empowering message, and at this point, it seems they are building on that spirit. that led them to record everything on their own in order to get their messages out into the world, then kept them performing and bettering themselves, but now with an explicit appreciation for collaboration. They are consciously taking themselves more seriously than ever and embracing the process.
Pie Face Girls take the impact of the craft beyond themselves as well, working with Girls Rock NC to guide young musicians as they lift their voices and build community through music. Dani helps to facilitate Teen Axn League, a team of female and trans youth, working year-round in conjunction with Girls Rock NC, to create safer spaces for teens in North Carolina, through organizing an overnight feminism and music summer camp every year.
When I asked about what is next to come, Dani stated, “as long as I can be an activist, I’m happy. As long as I can fight for the shit that matters in this world…because there’s a lot of shit to fight in this world.” Pie Face Girls’ raw yet inviting nature and open participation in activism come at a welcome time, when women’s rights and LGBTQ rights are threatened intensely at the state level, particularly in North Carolina. It is also a time when local policy implications are largely lost amongst the presidential election melee. Musical forces out there spending quality time with young people making their way, and encouraging the groups who fight hateful legislation and advocate for their communities and the voice of the people shouldn’t be taken for granted. Participation matters, especially in local and state politics, and at the community level.
“At the end of the day it’s about intention,” they stated in agreement – and I think that’s true for all of us. The volunteering we do, the creative statements we make, and the collaborations we are a part of demand we pay attention to the why of it all. Pie Face Girls are setting out to “reach as many people as we can… and get to the point where other people will load our gear,” Tiffany clarified with a laugh. They are working on tours through the South and the Northeast, and the logistics of an album set to come out in 2017. Experiencing the passion and talent they put into the music, and the way their engaging personalities drew people in after the show at The Hopscotch Oasis, Pie Face Girls are well on their way with some real, quality statements. Stay tuned.
On this hot, sunny Saturday in September, the people of the Queen City and beyond marched together in protest to denounce and heal from the killings of Keith Lamont Scott and Justin Carr, to resist the presence of the National Guard throughout the city, and to exercise freedom of speech and assembly in statements against systematic violence and institutionalized racism.
Charlotte, like Ferguson and Baltimore, was declared to be in a “state of emergency”, in response to looting, violence, and property damage perpetrated by a few on the first night of demonstrations. Since then, the messages of this movement were again obstructed by the sensational media focus on “rioters”, and complicated by the conflicting accounts of these two cases. Instead of engaging with the community’s calls for transparency, accountability, and other demands of the people of Charlotte, it was decided to militarize the city by bringing in the National Guard.
Media narratives tend to place property above people, confusing various forms of resistance to state-sanctioned violence with criminality. Reverend William Barber III is a leader in North Carolina’s efforts to preserve civil rights and improve quality of life, who states:
“This is what democracy looks like. We cannot let politicians use the protests as an excuse to back reactionary “law and order” measures. Instead, we must march and vote together for policies that will lift up the whole and ensure the justice that makes true peace possible.” – Why We Are Protesting in Charlotte
Channeling my own intentions in joining the people in peaceful protest, formed by the sense of unity that I’ve experienced at vigils and community discussions, amongst people in solidarity with the movement for black lives, justice, and institutional reform, I went to Charlotte to document what we really have to say (or write, in this case).
It is said that this is a movement, not a moment. So, here’s a bit of what democracy looked like that day.
Speaking truth to power
Solidarity and allyship
Looking out for our fellow citizens
The sign on his left reads, “United States Congress must pass a law that all police officers in every state in America must have, once a year, ongoing education and training required under federal law in order to serve with a weapon in public.”
Visit Charlotte Uprising for more information on their demands, partner organizations, and ways to get involved.