I’m Black and I’m a Rock Musician. WTF Do I Do?

I really am not sure. I know I should just keep making music, and I will, but to what end? To be an addendum; tacked on after I’m dead? I have never been the type to settle for less than what I deserve, but this is a beast that I honestly do not understand. White culture and the way White people see things is not the default perspective. It is incomplete, distorted, and wholly irrational. Yet I, who is normal, am supposed to see things as they do, which is not normal and I don’t want to, but also, I just can’t. I don’t understand it. I don’t know how you can look at people and really believe that they have no right to surpass you, and if they are capable of doing so, you sabotage and erase them. You Tonya Harding the shit out of them, then just pretend you are the best, and they don’t exist. That is so fucked up but it took me so long to even realize that it was happening. Since it is not in my nature to be a hating ass bitch, I didn’t assume it was a norm for other people. We all think everyone thinks the same as we do. That’s why good hearted people tend to get fucked over and liars and cheaters are always suspicious that everyone is lying and cheating them. I am just now realizing that for me, as a rock musician, being exceptional is an obstacle. It is an obstacle for Black rock musicians in general, because we are trying to break through in a White space where it makes them insecure and angry if they cannot feel better than us.

The Black bands that get the most press are not the best. And I would always wonder why that is. It didn’t make sense. Same with white female bands. I would often get excited when there was a new female band getting hyped up. They were always white but whatever, at least they were women. I would pray their stuff would be better than mine. Just to have some competition. But they were always derivative and mediocre. I’m like, Why? Why is this the best female band you can find?

They’re not the best band. That is why they are not threatening. The men they deal with know they will never be bigger or better than them. They also “kiss the ring” and don’t challenge. That’s why they are chosen. And it is the same with Black bands. If white people feel that you could be bigger than them, they blank you. White women AND White men do this. I spent my entire 20s playing “Queer, feminist spaces” that were racist as fuck. You can’t be better than White people. You can’t be better than men. That’s the rule. That’s the law. And if anyone looks at you and feels that you can be, well, there go your kneecaps …

People need African women to be a permanent underclass. Whenever they catch a glimpse of you, they need to feel they are better in comparison to you. That’s why people will watch a 3 hour BBC documentary about African women being raped and having their genitals mutilated, but they would never watch a middle class African women led rom-com, action movie, or family drama. People need to believe we are worse off compared to themselves. When they don’t feel that way, it makes them jealous and angry. So they sabotage. They exclude. They attack. African women can’t be pretty. We can’t be smart. We can’t be skilled. Because you need us to be less than you so you can feel good about yourself.

When we show ourselves to be exceptional, it is proof that you don’t have to be White or male (or close to it) in order to be capable. And you’re so evil and fucked up that this truth actually makes you angry, and you harm people so you can delude yourself into believing only you can be on top. It’s so infuriating. But it’s only a problem because fans of rock music feel that way too. They would rather watch some shirtless White douche stand onstage in a Jesus pose than watch Black women be exceptional. And this includes Black and female fans of rock music. Black and/or female rock music fans are racist and sexist, period. They don’t fucking like themselves. That’s the problem. Of course the white bookers are racist. Of course the white press is racist. But no one is stopping Black people from starting an alternative music mag. No one is stopping them from opening venues and putting on shows. But the thing that I didn’t realize is that White male validation is a huge drive for people who aren’t white guys that make rock music. When I started my band, I was so pissed off at how racist everyone was that I started putting my own all Black shows together. As a young African woman doing this, none of the Black people I dealt with even respected me and most were so fucking rude and difficult. They don’t care because you’re not White. I once booked these Black women to play my show and they went ahead and booked another Brooklyn show the same fucking week. I got so pissed and was like “Why would you do that? You’ll dilute your audience and I am one person doing diy publicity/booking/everything whilst they have their whole hipster White network and a popular venue, bla bla.” They were like, “Well, they asked us and we didn’t want to burn any bridges.” I thought to myself, it’s interesting that they didn’t see me as a bridge they didn’t want to burn. But that is not how Black psychology works. You think your success will come at the hands of White people. You don’t think success looks like you. You don’t think it will come from you. You don’t evaluate the people you’re working with and what you’d be gaining in order to measure the value of any opportunity, you just go with whomever is Whitest. Then you wonder why you don’t have shit.

After I called them out, the band apologized and actually helped me a lot by getting their friend to let me put on the gig in his basement out of town because no NYC venue would book my show of an entirely Black lineup. They were only interested if there were majority white bands on the bill and only 1 Black band. Now these same racist ass venues have the nerve to post BLM shit *eyeroll*. Anyway, out of a desire to be supportive of fellow Black women musicians, I actually went to their hipster white booked show. I arrived earlier than their advertised set time, just to hang out or whatever and since they were a hometown band, the majority of the people that came were there to see them, like me, and they were supposed to go on in less than an hour. I found them and spoke to them. They told me it was good that I arrived early, because the white female booker had informed them UPON THEIR ARRIVAL that they would be going on about an hour earlier and their set was cut in half. I couldn’t believe it. I asked them what they were going to do about it but they just took it. They didn’t protest. More “bridge preservation”, I would assume. Anyway they went on to way less people than they would have played to if they didn’t get fucked over, but the people that came, came to see them so the crowd was really energetic and into it. They must have played 3, MAYBE 4 songs. Then they were off. Show over. It was ridiculous. I stayed long after they were done, just to see what White nonsense would play next. It was an all white female band that undoubtedly were friends with the booker or her “network” because they were from France (NO ONE knew who they were) and I think it was actually their first Brooklyn gig so why the FUCK were they headlining and not the BROOKLYN BAND THE ENTIRE CROWD ORIGINALLY CAME TO SEE. Anyway, they were SO bad. Just BORING, derivative, post punk Joy Division nonsense (and I like Joy Division) but it was literally the most boring thing I had ever seen. EVERY song sounded the same and their set was 45 MINUTES! But Black bands will put up with that treatment just to work with White people. They think that’s the way to success. Before I wrote this, I searched a few bands I came across or played music with back in the mid-late 2000s. Some got a ton of White press, some were signed, but none of them still make music. Or the ones that do, their views are still in the sub-5000 range. So you ate all that shit, tolerated all that mistreatment, but you are still in the same boat as me, who just did it on my own and didn’t accept nonsense. So what was the point? So concerned with maintaining White bridges, completely oblivious to the fact that they all lead to a brick wall.

So the only thing to do is keep going. I’ve had insane drive for most of my life and I have accomplished things and have bulldozed through situations that would have left most other people in a fucking mental institution. I am a goddamned beast and I am proud of that. But I don’t think an African woman’s life must be struggle. So I have decided not to struggle. I don’t push. I don’t send out press releases, I don’t email bookers. When I feel like writing, I write. When I feel like recording, I record. I am concerned with getting music out to people. People are everywhere. I don’t need to reach people through any white or male controlled system, because that is what gives them the power to shut you out. If I feel like playing, I just go busk. And I keep all my goddamned money myself. If I want to put out a single, I just put one out. I don’t go through other people because when you are Black and exceptional, every “bridge” becomes a wall. So just do it yourself. That is what I’ve learned. The more I’ve learned to do myself the easier everything has become. Gatekeepers don’t matter in an open field. I’ve always believed that and that is why I started my band. If shitheads won’t let you through, go around. Walk away. Build your own. I am one of the few Black people that thinks that way but that is why I’ve done so much on my own. I don’t need White people or men for anything. And neither do you.

I get sad when I read about Tina Bell or Betty Davis or any other amazing Black women that left the music industry. I can understand why, but I feel that it would be a waste for me to do that, though many wish I would. It was a different time for them. No internet was a motherfucker. I would not exist without computers, mp3s, digital recording or the internet. PERIOD. In the 21st century, there is no reason any Black artist should be putting up with disrespect in exchange for “opportunity”. As far as making big money, I don’t know. We are in a place in music where everyone would rather see Black musicians as whores, pimps and degenerates rather than intellectuals or revolutionaries. But so? Maybe we should be less concerned with giving the people what they want and more concerned with expressing ourselves as individuals. Being broke sucks but you can always get money. In many different ways. I could take time off, learn to be an electrician and make bank. I don’t have to be sucking on white balls and degrading myself my whole life. I just don’t believe that is the only option for me.

So yes, after all this writing, I still have not answered the question. As an African female rock musician, what do I do? Continue making amazing music, by myself, putting it out there, by myself, all the while being refreshed and rejuvenated by the tears of all the haters that couldn’t write a song 10% as good as mine with a gun to their head. And that’s it. No one is going to recognize a Black woman as the best or the first, even when you are. But their validation does not dictate your relevance or impact. When I started, that Lester Bangs article was barely ever referenced or spoken about and Black rock musicians were not feminist and anti racist. Now they all are. But it is one thing to get in where you can fit in and it is another to be brave enough to stand alone and tell the truth, whether white people pat you on the head or not. I don’t know if in my lifetime, we’ll get to a place where people will support a Black female rock musician getting onstage and being exceptional, but who cares. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. Rock’n’roll, as Black people created it, was always about Black joy and how rebellious that is. Black people partying and dancing when their entire country was trying to kill them (and mostly succeeding). Used to be that the only people you saw on stage playing electric guitar were Black. White people refused to play rock’n’roll, calling it “race music” and “jungle music”. Did that stop Black artists then? So why should the whitewashed and corporatized rock music industry’s rejection of us stop us from playing rock’n’roll now? I don’t know how you can be Black and play punk rock and then spend your entire career yielding to white hegemony. Couldn’t be me. If they don’t accept you, do it yourself. THAT’S LITERALLY WHAT DIY MEANS. I’ve never seen so many people obsessed with being “real” be so calculated and fake as I have dealing with people who proclaim to be “punk” or “indie”. So fuck ’em. It’s Black innovation that created rock’n’roll and it’s Black innovation that will save it. We just have to not give up on ourselves. They can’t pretend we don’t exist if we don’t stop existing. And I think as Black rock musicians in the 21st century, we have more of an opportunity than anyone that came before us to be loud and to be everywhere and to exist and be heard whether White people “let us in” or not. I’m not 20 anymore so I really can’t even be bothered with 99% of humanity, like, I’m done. But if you’re 20 now, and you still have that fire in you, go out and burn this shit to the ground. There is nothing stopping you except your own mindset, your own deference to whiteness, and your own fear of being exceptional because you know that if you are, most people won’t like you. It’s difficult to be ostracized and disrespected by everyone, even your own people, but you get over it. Because seeing people behave like that makes you lose respect for them and if I don’t respect you, why would I give a fuck what you think? Even if I respect you, I won’t give a fuck what you think because my life exists to be lived and validated by me. That is freedom. Y’all think freedom is Whiteness. Or maleness. It’s not. And freedom will never be given to you by White males. You were born with it and it was stolen from you by White males. Why the fuck would they give it back? You must take it.

You must take it.

Iféoluwa’s Zombie Tips

Zombies are almost exclusively a threat and a nuisance; the only exception being if and only when they are dancing. If surrounded by non-dancing zombies, flee. Solo, if possible. They are only strong in groups. If you possess a large quantity of brains, be doubly cautious. They are attracted to brains, but only for consumption. They will not stop until you are one of them. Always be on the look out, though they are easy to spot. It’s in the eyes. If you are not sure whether zombies are present, be kind and smile widely. They view this as weakness and will then clumsily attack. (Note: Displays of unbiased, logic based thinking have also proven to be potent irritants to the Zombie.) When zombies have revealed themselves, proceed to beat they ass. Swiftly and thoroughly. Any observing zombies will then be promptly warned off. Some may even try to endear themselves to you. (Fun fact: The only thing zombies love more than eating brains and zombie conversion is abuse.) But please, abeg o, don’t be fooled. Once a zombie, always a zombie.

I hope these zombie tips have been helpful to you. Now travel into the night without fear. Good luck.

The Black Girl Version of Life

“The world will ask you who you are, and if you don’t know, the world will tell you.”

    – Carl Jung

The Black Girl Version:

“The world will tell you who you are, and if you don’t know, you’ll believe them.”

    – The White Noise Supremacists

Black Americans, Stop Being White About Africa.

I wrote this based on a response I wrote to my sister, when she sent me this article: “Can Black Americans Appropriate African Cultures?” After reading some of the dismissive, disgusting comment section, I had to say something because all I’ve seen is Black Americans attacking and Africans backing down and being silenced.

In 2015, Black Americans don’t have any connection to African cultures. Their closest connection is 500 years ago. They have FIVE CENTURIES of their own history, traditions and cultures that they created for themselves in the western world to draw from. Yes, this created culture has African origin, but the VAST MAJORITY of things on this earth have African origin. Including humanity. That doesn’t give everyone on planet earth who is a human the right to claim an African identity. I’ve seen Black Americans argue “I’m an African. It’s in my DNA.” Well, it’s not only in your DNA. Everyone on the planet has DNA that will eventually link them back to Africa. What makes me an African is not a collection of protein sequences. That is a shallow oversimplification that is offensive in and of itself. My upbringing, the food I eat, the music I listen to, the clothes I grew up wearing and had Black Americans mock me for wearing, my name (which was also mocked) the way I see the world, the way I define my Blackness, the languages I grew up hearing all around me. My values. The hilarious way Africans tell stories. The way my grandmother used to hug me and say “Oshyah” (phonetic) until I stopped crying when I fell down or hurt myself. My experiences as a 1st Generation American who has to deal with Anti-Blackness from everyone as well as Anti-African-ness from Western Black people. These things are part of my identity as an African. And there are many other things that I can’t even necessarily articulate. You do not have these experiences. Everything you know about Africa comes from what White people have told you. You don’t know who I am. Honestly, you don’t even know who you are. So how do you think you not only have the right to define what African-ness is but also put it on as if it were a costume? That is offensive. That is disrespectful. And that is exactly what White people do to you. (You know, those other people with African DNA?)

Look at the Khoisan. That’s where East Asian people get their looks from. And East Asian cultures are actually MORE similar to African cultures than Black American cultures are. Can Asians start walking around in dashikis and kente cloth and whatever mish-mash pick-and-choose- gumbo of African cultures they want to claim as their own and start saying they are African? NO THEY CANNOT. (Not like they ever would say that because the thirst for Whiteness over here in Asia is REAL.) Anyway, they are around 50,000 years removed from Africa. Might as well be 500. Either/or, the majority of both groups have NO clue about  the cultures and identities they are emulating and that is a fact. I was raised in the US. I don’t recall ANY Black Americans being respectful and knowledgeable about my background growing up. Or maybe they just didn’t have time to be, between slurs of “darky”, “nappy”, or “African Bootyscratcher” and mocking me about having AIDS or Ebola. The Western Black people who would say “You’re too pretty to be African, what are you mixed with?” Or assume that my long hair was a weave, or would ask me if I ate tigers or lived in a hut (tigers aren’t fucking from Africa dumbass. And huts? Really?) The people who when I say my mother is from Sierra Leone they respond with, “What’s that?”… These are the people who want to call themselves Africans? Why?

What was seen at that “festival that dare not speak its name” and elsewhere by Western Black people IS appropriation. When WE walk down Fulton St. or 125th St. or through any Black American neighborhood in traditional clothing, we get looks and snickers and comments but when they wear it, it’s fashionable. When our music is played in its natural form it is mocked. When it is played in the form of reggae or hip-hop or blues, it’s cool. By the way, most instruments and scales (pentatonic, anyone?) seen as western are African inventions. Without those things, Western music wouldn’t exist PERIOD. History goes one way. Africans making rap is not appropriation because Black Americans did not create rap independent of African influence. It CAME FROM US. You just adapted it into something that reflected your experience and circumstances. That is not a problem. But how can you tell people who invented communication through talking drums that we can’t rap? That is the cultural ignorance that I am talking about. And I am SURE that all the Western Black people who made those comments have never heard of a talking drum in their life. Or the people who are on the step team yet know nothing about South African Gumboot dancing. You take from our cultures, do not give credit or are completely ignorant of the fact that credit is due, and only view our cultures as “cool” when they are filtered through YOU. That’s wrong and it is EXACTLY what White people do to you. If you do not respect me, why do you want to take my name? When Marlon Wayans hosted the MTV Africa Music awards (I’m sure he hosted it out of “pride” and not a paycheck) , he spent the whole night making Anti-African jokes. Nowadays, there are all these rappers taking African tracks and ripping them off without paying royalties, Black American run clothing lines using African prints/materials and not a damn African makes a penny from it … Many African artists even boycotted the BET awards because they were treated horribly. They had Tiwa Savage dancing around in a back lot in an un-aired performance. Tiwa Savage is one of Nigeria’s biggest stars! There was even an African band at this years “festival that dare not speak its name” that was HORRIBLY mistreated and I know that for a fact … Black Americans collecting money on other people’s culture yet mistreating and disrespecting the actual people doesn’t qualify as exploitation?

Some more Black people acting White about Africa are the people who attacked the African woman who wrote the article like her feelings are invalid as an African because you as Black Americans don’t agree. Well great but, uh, you ain’t African and you have no clue what it feels like so who are you to shut her down when she says she feels uncomfortable when she sees people who couldn’t even name 5 African countries (or didn’t even know that Africa isn’t a country) adopting her culture, most times incorrectly, and being rude and standoffish when corrected? My mother could tell you how many times she’s seen Black women trying to tie their baby to them with a lapa and they do it wrong and get mad when she tries to show them how to do it right so their baby doesn’t die of shaken baby syndrome by the time they walk home.

I’ve also seen Black Americans ask, “Who are you to say we can’t wear these things?” Who are we? We are Africans. That’s not enough? Who do we have to be to tell someone when they do things that make us feel offended or uncomfortable? Black Americans have a horrible history but so do we as Africans. We just didn’t get our cultures stripped from us. And we can sympathise with you without letting you run over us. If your cousin got their wallet stolen, can they demand access to your bank account and get huffy when you say no and be all, “I’m your cousin we have a connection I can take what I want from you we have the same blood!”

Honestly speaking, Black Americans are like distant cousins that ain’t nobody seen for 500 years and when we do see you 9 times out of 10 you act like an asshole and mock us, resent our successes, put us down and stereotype us. And though you got your own house, your landlord’s a violent, abusive ass so you just show up to our place like “Hey, we’re related I’m moving in” and bust into our closet and wear our clothes and eat up all our food and get your name legally changed to ours and STILL don’t even respect us in our own house. Then when we say that we’re not comfortable with you barging in and doing these things, you try to say we have no right to protest because “we’re blood” and you get defensive that we even brought up your presence or behaviour. Isn’t that…um, completely insane?

If Black Americans would say “I want to be closer to African cultures because I don’t know where I’m from and it makes me feel lost and empty somehow. Embracing African cultures makes me feel more grounded as a Black person and gives me something to connect to, therefore I would like to learn. What are your traditions? What do your clothes mean and how do you make them? What do you wear on this occasion or eat on that occasion? What are your religions? I’d really like to learn your language. What is it called? Can you teach me? I’d like to see where/how you live. Can I visit? I think if I do, it would really feel like home to me.”

Do you think if Black Americans approached Africans like that, we would have ANY problem with it? Africans are the most sharing-ass people on the planet even when it is to our own detriment. No one would have a problem with teaching or sharing. The problem is, Black Americans are too arrogant and ethnocentric to want to learn. They think they are above trying to learn from Africans and are entitled to our cultures and identities and can just take what they want and do as they please no matter what we say or how we feel. Sound familiar?

When Black Americans learn to respect Africans as rich cultures and people that exist independently of them in the present and no longer view us solely as “primitive” relics of their past that they can just trade and horde at will, I will have no problem with them learning about Africa and becoming a part of a somewhat shared identity. Until that time comes, however, stay the hell out of my closet. And stop changing your name to Shawakalakabaka that is not African you can’t just make things up omg.

The White Noise Supremacists Solves the Meaning of Life

Step 1. Ask yourself: “Why was I born into the world?”

Step 2. Force yourself to come up with an answer that contains a verb.

Step 3. Do that. And never stop.

You’re welcome.