Getting to the root: Where do our missing girls go?

The #missingDCgirls have woken us up again. Black cis and trans girls & women reported missing across the country number close to 75,000. 37 of the cases in DC – all Black and Latinx – reported since January remain unsolved.

In the past few weeks, spikes in disappearances of young women of color – and notice of them – in the Metropolitan DC area sparked widespread concern and consideration about the status quo. 

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BAM FI understands minority to mean all people of color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Why? How?

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.

Runaways list abuse as a major reason for running. That trauma is something they will need help building themselves up from – as we all would. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse still widely affects minors between the ages of 12 and 17. If they don’t have a safe place or trusted advocate to turn to, running away becomes a real option. They’re only human.

Look to support organizations like Covenant House, a homeless youth shelter and center of advocacy in DC. Sasha Bruce Youthwork engages and prepares young people to stabilize with work and social support. Seeking Shelter’s strong list of sheltering and transitional services covers 15 cities across the US, including DC.

We could all support these community hubs in our local cities, by donating time and resources as we are able. The Public Defender Service for DC provides a Directory of Youth and Family Services amongst other resources for navigating the DC Justice System.

 

They can be led astray

Black and Latinx youth are particularly vulnerable to predators via social media. People have always been enticed by the promise of romance. It’s often difficult to distinguish from what we may be really seeking like autonomy, self-love. Teens, statistically, have a harder time with that difference, especially when they are being manipulated or groomed.

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, as Kimberly of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) says, “outside of community, there are no safe spaces”.

 

And to whom?

It’s on track to be the most violent year on record for trans women of color. Casa Ruby and organizations like it around the country provide that sense of community and care for individuals in need of safe spaces and solidarity. As the only Bilingual Multicultural LGBT safe space in Washington, DC, Casa Ruby offers companionship, along with access to hot meals, emergency housing referrals, legal services counseling, and support groups. We have to support these beacons for young people. They are right there at the intersections of identity, quality of life, and safety.

 

Speak up

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.
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Keep an eye out

We must be vigilant, we know some will have been abducted. People are calling on transparency in the way local and federal officials take action and #findourgirls. Black lawmakers are calling for the FBI and Justice Department to help police investigate the missing in DC. However, even police have been arrested for human trafficking. It’s a disgustingly lucrative business.

Human trafficking has become the second-fastest growing criminal industry in the United States. Activists and organizations across the country and world fight the forces perpetuating slavery and trafficking, both domestic and international. Based in DC, FAIR Girls prevents the exploitation of girls worldwide through prevention education, compassionate care, and survivor-inclusive advocacy. Courtney’s House provides outreach and protection for children and minors who are victims of domestic sex trafficking in the greater DC area. You can find many other active Housing Resources and Emergency Shelters at the District of Columbia Office of Disability Rights.

 

What now?

We must support the watchers. High attendance to “Where Are They Now?”, the March 22nd forum on the missing in DC shows a community mobilized, and passionate about the cause. They are at the heart of this in Ward 8, and authorities should recognize and include them in finding solutions for preventing and protecting against this.

Where Are They Now?, forum held March 22nd, 2017.

 

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 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.

 

 

Support Black & Missing Foundation in providing equal opportunity for all missing. If you’re in the DC area in May, join their Hope Without Boundaries 5K Run/Walk fundraiser.

If you relate to this, and want to share here, contact us.

 

Women’s March NYC: Signs for the next steps

According to the Associated Press, over 500,000 people marched on Washington, DC on January 21, 2017, and the New York Times reports that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office counted 400,000 people marching in the Big Apple. Marches took place, not only in cities throughout the United States, but around the world, bringing that number to 2.9 million. Although this global show of resistance was sparked by the election of Donald Trump and was christened the “Women’s March”, as I made my way across 42nd Street and up Fifth Avenue in New York City, I found myself amidst a sea of protest signs running the gamut of issues.


Reproductive rights seemed to be at the forefront, but slogans focused on gay rights, climate change, immigration, healthcare, police brutality and a general “fuck you” to misogynists everywhere were also on display. 

To me, the day was a cathartic, pre-emptive strike against an administration which has consistently promised to go right on the intersecting issues where sense of reason and heart go left.

In our own words

Below, the words of just a small handful of the women in attendance in New York City give a snapshot of the atmosphere of hope and sisterhood I experienced:

“My name is Bonnie Heller, I live in Manhattan. I’m a neighbor of Donald Trump’s. We’ve known him for many, many years. He has never done anything to help his city, so I don’t understand how he would ever help this country. Plus the fact that he’s a misogynist, racist asshole. So that’s about it.”

“My name is Carly Lissak, and I’m here because I don’t think anyone should feel that they are represented by someone who doesn’t believe in who they are or [the reasons] why they should be seen as equals. Also because I’m scared. I know that we are the pillar of the free world and when the face of the pillar of the free world is mentally unstable it’s just not good for anyone. Also this is an emotional outlet to feel better.”

“We are here to fight for our rights!” – Gia

“The reason why I joined the Women’s March is because I believe this day will be crucial and will go down in history. As an American female I have realized throughout my years of adulthood that there are so many right we take for granted each and every day. I protest to say ‘no more’. I protest because I am aware of what is at stake. I protest in the hopes that they don’t strip us women of our rights. I protest in hope that the planet does not go to shit because of some in-denial narcissist of a president that believes it’s all a hoax. I want my children and my children’s children to have the future they deserve. Ultimately, I protest because that’s all that we have left [in order to] fight back.” – Daniela

“I march because I need to use my voice to speak up for those that America is refusing to hear.” – Andrea

“If I didn’t care about this country I wouldn’t be doing this.” – Overheard on the train ride home


These words are nothing without continued action

Here are some links to help you get involved with just a few of the organizations empowering and connecting people to fight for the issues addressed at the Women’s March. Every action counts and the way forward is all about intersectionality.

Planned Parenthood

GLAAD

Black Lives Matter

Greenpeace

The first step forward in the Women’s March 10 Actions / 100 Days is to start contacting your senator about the issues that matter to you. They’re offering printable postcards to get you started and I’ve got some of the messages seen on signs in NYC for inspiration:

No human being is illegal.

Presidential does not mean bully.

I’m pro-woman. He’s a con-man.

Love trumps hate.

We shall over comb.

Eyes on the state.

Hands off my rights.

Respect existance or expect resistance.

Black lives matter.

Science is real.

Made in ‘gina.

It’s time to ovary act.

Conversion therapy is going to be lit.

 

Cypherpunk Hammy Havoc’s take on privacy, open-source society, and true self-sustenance

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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.

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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.

Any improvements I make to the source code of a piece of software, I can then submit for inclusion in the repository of the project for others to benefit from, and vice versa. This is what the likes of Jeremy Corbyn are getting at when he says that the government would open-source any software or hardware that they create using taxpayer money.

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.

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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.

 

 

They say knowledge is power.. keep up with Hammy Havoc via Soundcloud, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

Check out his 2016 EP release here:

Mischievous Minds: A Short Tale

Six hands, six empty pockets.
Two mischievous minds planning to shoplift.
One opposing mind, supposedly mine
yet somehow I find myself fascinated with an object, obviously planning to “cop” it.
I have to stop this;
How can I be considered a leader if I allow others that are rebellious towards authority and immune to rules…
To target me as an object of ridicule & pressure me into assuming a new identity;
It all began when they were able to convince me to skip school.
Apparently, my standards had been set too high. According to my new acquaintances, it was fictitious of me to place myself on such a big pedestal.
—————-{Scene One}—————–
We individually make our entrance to discover that the store is empty yet stocked full of goods.
Snagging an item or so is simple, anything more is intense, yet at the same time, “more is plenty” therefor my jacket & pockets are now full of goods.
I turn the corner and come in contact with a co-worker that from the point on begins following me.
That was a new encounter because throughout my life I had become accustomed to authority hallowing me.
I had yet to know what it felt like to be perceived as just another lost delinquent; With that being said, I was oblivious of the fact that my environment was gradually swallowing me.
I noticed that the co-worker was constantly glancing in my direction, so to diminish the tension, I try to smile.
It wasn’t genuine but I felt like it was an alleviating gesture and maybe it would prevent them from following me to the electronic aisle.
I examine every object that catches my eye until I spot a pair of mesmerizing headphones.
Immediately my thoughts were “…where can I stash it?…my pockets are packed & there’s little to no room in my jacket…” However, there is plenty of room in my casket because in my heart I knew that what I was doing was dead wrong.
—————-{Cut Scene}——————
Six hands, six empty pockets.
Two mischievous minds selling stolen products.
One opposing mind, supposedly mine
but somehow I find myself exchanging an object, obviously planning to make a profit.
I have to stop this:
Placing myself in these predicaments despite knowing the likelihood of falling under the influence of these risky hooligans;
Usually, my decision making derives from good judgement, but that is clearly not the case now, because I have been persuaded to skip school again.
This shift from my former demeanor to my newly adopted ways and tendencies
has transpired due to my alliance with individuals as endangering as enemies.
—————–{Scene Two}—————-
We are inside the convenient store holding a conversation, attempting to resolve our conflict
I was experiencing a great difficulty coping with my paranoid state of mind; the last thing I wanted was to get caught and be labeled as a convict
So I voiced my concern by saying “Im not in fear of getting caught but there is no way we are pulling this one off… it is way too ‘hot’ in here”
Meanwhile, during our dispute, a man approaches us. He then pulls me aside and says “young man your coat looks kind of stuffed, what kind of stuff you got in there?”
“…You have circled around the store several times now; you want to tell me what it is that you are really up to?”
“…I could detect the mischief on your amigos from a mile away, but you…”
“You carry a righteous aura; I sense your brightness. I get the vibe that you are unique, so I suggest you keep away from this crowd or you will end up getting yourself into a wreck [crash]”
“…I have seen their kind before, overtime they become cut throat [slash], so I suggest you tuck your neck [& do it fast…]” Protect yourself, have more respect for yourself because I am certain that if it ever came to life or death circumstances your so called ‘homies’ would cut your neck [in a flash]”
The mans perspective was food for thought; it actually made me stop myself & ask: if these “allies” of mine had my best interest at heart?…& how long could I expect this unorthodox act of mine to last?
Truth is, if I continue walking this path, I will be sacrificing a bright future that is bound to turn into a dark past…
But at the same time, who is to say that I will ever fulfill my potential? I mean, its not like anyone else can fulfill it for me.
Although, I have may have taken a wrong turn in this journey of mine; it has made me more aware of my reality, in which I would go into further depth but that topic is another story.
—————–{Cut Scene}—————–

Guardians of Our Garden

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Seeds were planted in the past, time passed & those seeds grew.
They blossomed & became beautiful; They are symbolic & although the plants can be physically taken out the earth, they remain unmovable. 


August 11th 2015 – the birth of a garden.
The first of much to come. 
We will watch as these things take place.
Each day, from the moment the sunrises to the moment the skies darken.
We shall rest, during the evening, in a state of peace knowing that our garden is safe.

Assassin, Vol. 1

Seeing violence done in the dark has me leaving the light switch off as I speak in silence.
Seeking guidance when seeds of doubt sprout seasonally in my thoughts in result of wars fought with enemies seeking an alliance.
Walking through the alley of death where shadows are said to seen.
Selling souls to satan as satan sells goals that are fed to the fiends.
Motivated by material matter and obtaining it by any means.
Many of these lost souls assume leadership roles; pitching distorted visions in addition to false hope & dreams.
The misguided youth eventually age and become wayward adolescents;
Present yet disengaged from society while coping with their injurious obsessions.
Things that are so detrimental that they can be considered toxic.
Their minds are locked; boxed, but the key is love & God is the locksmith.
The mentality of the environment is the enemy, a merciless force of destruction.
The discretion of the hierarchy lacks consistency causing it to become the source of corruption.
These two factors form a chain reaction as victims began to victimize others.
Whether it’s by taking advantage of their peers or by taking the lives of others
& the cycle continues, it’s persistent; the effects are the equivalent to that of a dark plague.
Who’s to know when this cycle shall be broken; the breakthrough is unclear & remains vague.
As a result we have entered a state of limitations & entrapment – without fully acknowledging the fact that once again we have become enslaved.

The End of Silence, revisited

‘Life is full of noise and that death alone is silent… nothing essential happens in the absence of noise’.

Noise: the Political Economy of Music, Jaques Attali (1985)

What meaning is in a sound? To hear the rattle of gunfire from the comfort of your stereo speakers, is our imagination transported to a distant war zone, or do we listen to such a noise as simply that, a singular audible event which fails to infer a semantic meaning outside of the situation from which it is been listened to? Instead we stare at the lifeless, cold speaker cones, bewildered at the loss of a visual source. The invention of recording technology allows us to strip a sound from its original context, disrupting the ephemeral nature of a noise and transforming the vibrations of the world into sonic subjects that can be revisited at a later date. Throw in samplers, synthesisers and the near endless potential of digital manipulation, we are able to get further and further away from the source of origin, complicating our attempts to understand a musical abstraction, to make sense of our emotional response to a transplanted sound. Does this technological chasm between a sound and its source leave us with simply a barrage of meaningless noise?

Matthew Herbert’s 2013 release, End of Silence, is a record that asks us to confront such questions, and many more, challenging our perceptions of recorded sound. Having pressed play, a hubbub of distant cheering voices and alerting whistles vie for attention against a rumbling white noise that quickly swoops into dominance, exploding from the speakers and perforating the space between the listener and the recording, before dissipating into an uneasy quiet, a sonic detritus that bubbles under the fallout of the devastating sound that hits you after only five seconds into the piece. That sound is a recording by photographer Sebastien Meyer, who captured the moment a bomb falling from a pro-Gadaffi plane hit the ground in Libya, during the battle of Ras Lanuf at the height of the troubles in 2011. What you hear in End of Silence is the noise of terror that resulted in the death of civilians, a 5-second sample that serves as the sole sound-source for the album. Over three tracks, that sample is disintegrated, contorted and mutated, exploring the depths of horror contained within, turning the explosion into a haunting beat, the whistles and cries of urgent fear as awkward melodic loops. This is Herbert attempting to ‘freeze history, press pause, wander around inside the sound’, stretching and slowing down the event in order to better make sense of it, acting as the antithesis to the ceaseless 24-hour rolling news coverage that desensitises us to the world’s atrocities. It is as if Herbert is searching for a resolving silence inside the sound-clip, a moment of quiet to contemplate the tragedy. Yet just as soon as the music lulls into relative calm, the deafening explosion returns with a cacophony of noise, an aural onslaught to reassert the terror of the sonic subject.

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Matthew Herbert, Yann Seznec, Tom Skinner, Sam Beste

Recorded over three days, Herbert and his band improvised with and around the fragmented sounds that Herbert had prior manipulated, a sort of live electronic jam that maintains a human element that is often lost in programmed electronic music. In order to acknowledge the distance between the performance and the actual event, microphones were set up outside of the studio, capturing a gentle birdsong for the beginning of ‘Part 2’ that is quickly shattered by the noise of the explosion once again. Despite the safety and quietude surrounding Herbert’s studio in the Welsh countryside, the terror encapsulated in the sample remains omnipresent. A minute before the final track comes to a close, we are hit one final time by the 5-second recording which abruptly breaks into an uneasy silence that hauntingly lingers until a few digital bleeps bring it to an end. That silence is as shocking as the explosion itself, offering a poignant finish to a record that will linger in your memory long after listening.

Herbert’s musical explorations into sound have taken many tangents over his prolific career, from experimental house to big-band jazz, but with End of Silence, he appears to have crystallised the potential to utilise the medium of sound as a ‘new frontier in storytelling’. I first came to be aware of Matthew Herbert’s work via a professor’s suggestion to listen to his reworking of Mahler’s 10th symphony, an intriguing work that re-recorded Mahler’s final completed orchestral movement. Herbert instils a ghostly, haunting presence through manipulating the original sound source, as if Mahler’s aura has been stirred from the dead within this recomposition, having been unsettled by Herbert’s temporal alteration, placing a mirror between light and darkness, life and death. Mahler Symphony X was followed by Herbert’s One trilogy, a collection of albums released over two years that were constructed from utilising a single source of sound, taking as subject himself, a performance in a nightclub and the life of a single pig, from birth to slaughter. These records worked to construct a narrative through sampling, and with End of Silence, Herbert has further narrowed his scope and in doing so highlights the incredible capacity of sound to hold a vast complexity of meaning.

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Listen to The End of Silence on Bandcamp

Yet what story is told in End of Silence? Listeners unaware of the album’s concept, the origin of its sound source, would be left feeling relatively cold to a record that is essentially a barrage of noise and fragmented bleeps. We can only take the word of the photographer, of Matthew Herbert, as to the horrific circumstances from which the album is derived, without which the powerful political value of the album would be lost. But what meaning may this album hold for those who have bared witness to the trauma of being in a conflict zone, who have heard the sound of a bomb explode?  We may suggest that End of Silence has appropriated a highly sensitive subject and packaged it as musical entertainment, ultimately making music out of the sound of death from a position of relative privilege, another case of cultural imperialism making profit at the expense of lost and forgotten voices outside of the western world. Its political value becoming masked by Herbert’s musical ego that serves to dismantle the sound beyond recognition to display his prowess at sonic manipulation. However, this is undue criticism, as the album has prompted important discussion, it does force us to confront and remember the violent atrocities that occurred in Libya, and indeed in other nations suffering from similar conflicts.

 

End of Silence highlights the potential for electronic artists to utilise sampling to create a form of protest music that takes real sound bites of actual events as its subject, forcing us to confront surrounding issues through sonic excavation of the sample. With Herbert’s album, the instrumental, abstract nature of the music may be ambiguous in suggesting how listeners should respond to the political message, but through this ambiguity, more

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Regarding the Pain of OthersSusan Sontag (2003)

questions can be asked, our ways of listening and seeing the world can be challenged as opposed to reading off an already-written script. Susan Sontag once wrote, ‘photographs are not much help if the task is to understand. Narratives can make us understand, photographs do something else – they haunt us’. In a similar sense, Herbert’s use of sampling in End of Silence functions in a similar manner as to how Sontag perceives photographs work in representing pain and tragedy. We are not told how to feel, yet we are forced to confront this sonic representation of violence in a way that encourages greater introspection alongside attempts to make sense of it in regards to the music’s outward reality. Through its abstract form, we can explore the subtle nuances of meaning and emotion that lie beneath the ability of language to symbolise or express, not working towards an explanation, but instead haunting us.

 

 

What is so fascinating about this piece is how Herbert uses recorded sound to construct a complex rhetoric through exploring that sample. It serves as a unique voice in the representation of modern conflict, and in many respects, the album has managed to capture a representation of a specific historical event that otherwise may have been forgotten. As a sonic artifact, it holds significant political weight in itself. But through Herbert’s manipulation of the sample we are asked, as listeners, to interpret that sound in a self-reflective manner that is eternally present, and not just as an objective historical incident. That is the beauty of sound recording and of creating sample-based music; as each time we listen, it echoes (but is not limited to) the past, whilst also asking us to re-evaluate the meaning of that sound through its present contextual frame, and to interpret its relationship to our own experiences.

 

You can read Noise: the Political Economy of Music in full, here.

Thoughts on Brexit, a Lesson in Change

It’s all not so funny anymore.

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A few weeks prior, my friends and I were discussing the then-forthcoming EU referendum and soon found ourselves mocking the unnerving anti-immigration, nationalist rhetoric that had dismantled any meaningful debate of the Leave campaign. ‘An hour for England’ we ironically jeered as we drank our Czech beers and Spanish wine, laughing at what we thought was a misguided minority stuck in the past.

Oh, the pain of being terribly wrong, for the masses have voted and we no longer belong. This is a strange despondence and in a way I feel part of the problem. The very real anger and frustrations of the working classes across Britain have failed to be addressed and the European Union and the issues of immigration have sadly been utilised as a scapegoat through a thinly-veiled xenophobia disguised as taking back control of the nation’s democracy. We are all responsible and we all must deal with the consequences. America, take note. The parallels with the Brexit campaign and Trump’s rise to prominence have been well-discussed, but what the results of the referendum show is that this is not a joke, this is not something to be laughed at, and it is your responsibility, the American public, to ensure similar events do not occur in the following presidential election. Take it seriously, because fear and hate is powerful, powerful enough to prompt Britain to disregard rational discussion and shoot ourselves in the foot, moving towards economic instability and a troubling future.

The morning of, I read several gut-wrenching statuses on social media from dear friends who just so happen to be of citizenship of another European nation, detailing a sense of no longer being welcome in this country, fearful for their jobs and family. With passion, I send my deepest love and support to you, but please do not descend into bitterness for you are not alone. It will be desperately challenging, yet we must fight together to ensure the rising tide of regressive isolation is overcome by even greater global cooperation, changing this despair into developing new visions of our future that effectively address the issues of our age. The EU has its problems and it is a devastating blow that the UK has decided to leave rather than to remain and work with the rest of Europe to resolve the many issues. However, might there be another possibility for Europeans, a new period of greater international cooperation through which the deeply-pressing humanitarian and environmental concerns are better met? We are moving into the unknown, but we must not fall into hate and we must not let perfection be the enemy of the good; instead we must look towards a focused and productive action to help create a new community of togetherness.

As a British citizen, I feel completely disillusioned by the whole debate in which both sides fail to adequately address the issues at hand. Its divisive politics have had a clearly damaging effect upon the UK’s social cohesion. The polls reflect this, with a clear majority of young people aged 18-24 voting remain, and conversely a clear majority of the older generation voting to leave.

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What does it now mean to be British? I used to feel pride for my nationality, proud of the National Health Service and pleased to be a part of a country that supported multiculturalism and diversity. I desperately hope this result does not signal the start of the erosion of the many things I hold dear. Brexit may lead the country to the implementation of further right-wing agendas given the lie that the nation has been sold: that leaving the EU will help protect the many pillars of our social democracy.

Nigel Farage, that slimy degenerate being – and prominent voice of the Leave campaign – has already come out and said that the supposed 350 million that we pay to the EU will not necessarily be used for the NHS. Comically, this was one of the main arguments for exiting the EU, yet I really can’t decide whether to laugh or cry at this hopelessly farcical reality. Thankfully, he is not an elected MP, for now. And let us desperately hope that Cameron’s resignation does not result in a blond buffoon taking his place, someone we so fondly smiled along with as we watched his embarrassing idiocies unfold on the international stage as London mayor. There must be a better alternative.

These are but a few words from a confused and disappointed soul trying to make sense of what has unfolded. I do not want to feel resigned to anguish and defeat. I want to feel hope, that despite this terrible outcome there is a better future to be found, one that is better for Britain, better for Europe, and better for the world. I say this with bated breath but that is all I’ve got.

May we make the mistakes from which others learn.

Brandee Younger brings soulful vibrance to community arts

The intimate PSI Theatre at Durham Arts Council felt like the perfect space to experience the soul vibrations of Brandee Younger, along with Chelsea Baratz on tenor sax, Dezron Douglas on bass, and Otis Brown III on drums. 

The band played a medley of Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, original compositions from Wax and Wane, and pieces she selected to play first and reveal afterwards, inviting the audience to guess the tunes. One was  If it’s Magic by Stevie Wonder, a favorite of hers, as she states in conversation with Obvious Magazine, it is “one of those songs that makes you question everything and also feel hopeful regardless of circumstance. It’s about spreading the love.” The spread was inviting, with a warm backdrop where melodies could dance, and the audience could cozy up. 

Durham Arts Council utilizes the space in PSI Theatre for various arts performances, film screenings, and community meetings. Over 3,400 folks of all ages flock to the building to attend Durham Arts Council School, a community education program for visual and performing arts, providing over 700 courses throughout the year, including summer camps for kids ages 5 to 12.

The next stop for the harpista was another community-based event, the culmination of Harp on Parka concert series commissioned by Arts Brookfield. The organization presents free cultural experiences in public spaces at Brookfield’s properties around the world, to support creativity and innovation in music, dance, theater, film, and visual art.

Younger curated and assembled the 4-concert series exploring the ways harp is used in the 21st century to showcase the flexibility of the instrument, “I thought about who is doing something different, challenging the status,” she said to Village Voice, “and while classical harpists are a dime a dozen, the ones [who play other genres] aren’t. It’s a bold thing.”.  

The “hybrid harpist” embodied that boldness here in Durham for the Art of Cool Festival. Younger collaborates throughout the community of creators, with Lauryn Hill, Ryan Leslie, Talib Kweli, Common, and Ravi Coltrane – under whose creative direction she collaborated in Universal Consciousness, a recent tribute to Alice Coltrane. While reaching across genres and forging her own style – as we witnessed at Durham Arts Council – Younger projects the rich musical traditions of Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby. 

Altogether, the music and works of Brandee Younger provide a smooth lesson in the vitality of past and future collaboration in both jazz and community.

If you’re in New York this summer, Brandee Younger will be around for several shows starting June 7. For community arts programming (like Harp on Park) in New York, check out The Swings: An Exercise in Cooperation from June 10 to July 7. The installation is sponsored by Arts Brookfield and designed by Daily tous les joursan interaction design studio with a focus on participation by empowering people to have a place in the stories that are told around them.

Tennyson: Playing through Process

The crowd at Motorco Music Hall grooved along with Tennyson, deeply attuned to the myriad frequencies and rhythms being processed and punctuated before our eyes. Digital jazz pulsated through the crowd in pleasant bouts – when eyes weren’t closed, they were alight – captivated by the layers and levels The Canadian sibling duo brought to the venue.

Luke and Tess Pretty started playing music when they were nine and seven years old, respectively, playing jazz cover shows until deciding to share another dimension of their musical imagination with their hometown of Edmonton, Alberta in 2012. In late 2015, Tennyson released the Like What EP, filled with compositions telling stories through percussion, melody, and measured arrangements of space.

Tennyson has an interesting approach to creation and collaboration, charting new territory all the time armed with novel equipment, skillful musicality, and unbridled commitment to the daunting/invigorating creative process. Luke shared this insight on mistakes and creating with Yours Truly: “I noticed something recently,” says Luke. “Part of the reason why it was so hard, is because there was a fear of, like — if there’s a section that you know you want to make, but you haven’t started yet, there’s a part of you that’s scared to start. Because you feel like maybe now is not the best time to make it, or something. Or, tomorrow, maybe in the morning, you could really get that section to sound right. But I realized — the last song in the album is the only one I made in a week, where the other ones were two or three months. But that week was kind of like, ‘Whoa, you can just make it. You don’t have to worry about it.’ And same with lyrics. You could just write them. And then kind of fix it. And it’s good. It’s probably better if you’re not worried the whole time you’re making it.”

Like What? opens with the words of Oliver Sacks: “we see with the eyes, but we see with the brain as well. And seeing with the brain is often called imagination.”

The video for the title track is an exploration of process in itself. Director Fantavious Fritz played the song for Nikita – a 12-year old girl who has been blind since birth – and recorded her commentary, then created the video using the visuals that she described. The result is an engaging trip through a dynamic space, with rhythmic auditory cues and visuals that capture life and light playing in spite of limitations. You’ll rethink the way you experience music.

Tennyson’s tracks invite Sacks’ “seeing with the brain”, playing with different spaces and guiding the senses to place ourselves in the music. The Art of Cool festival at large took that on wholeheartedly, appreciating the plurality of experience and the effect of letting sound take over the space.