Being Creative in Black Spaces

Monday, Jul 1, 2019

In this Graduate Series Interview, we listen in as Kirk Maynard (moderator), Steven Gayle, and Brandan “BMike” Odums explore contemporary issues from the lens of creatives and artists.

Kirk Maynard is a mixed media artist and educator from Brooklyn, New York. A second generation Guyanese-American, Maynard’s work focuses on the political undercurrents of culture and identity in America. His work has been exhibited in solo and group shows in New York City, San Francisco, and New Jersey. He has also given artist talks at the New Museum, Queens College, and Princeton University.

Steven Gayle is a media professional, independent filmmaker and artist originally from Philadelphia by way of Hampton Roads Virginia. He's produced two independent documentaries and a number of shorts and music videos. In terms of his artwork, Steven primarily paints, using acrylic, oil and watercolors in his pieces.

Brandan “BMike” Odums is a New Orleans-based visual artist who, through exhibitions, public programs, and public art works, is engaged in a transnational dialogue about the intersection of art and resistance. From film to murals to installations, Odums’ work encapsulates the political fervor of a generation of Black American activists who came of age amidst the tenure of the nation’s first Black president, the resurgence of popular interest in law enforcement violence, and the emergence of the self-care movement. Most often working with spray paint, Odums paints brightly-colored, wall-sized murals that depict historical figures, contemporary creatives, and everyday people.

 


Interview Transcript

 

(0:00) Kirk: Um, so my name is Kirk Maynard um, an Artist and Educator. I'm from Orleans, New Jersey. Um,, a lot of my work, I deal with, um,, focuses on Institutionalized Discrimination and so I'm happy to be here at um,, Princeton. I'm happy that the Department of African American Studies is you know, hosting this Space for us to discuss some of these issues and not just discuss some of these issues but also discuss some of these issues from certain molds, you know. As Artists and as Creatives, we could kinda like get involved in some of the Contemporary issues that are going on in our society.

Steven: My name is Steven Gale. Uh, I'm a PhD student at Kansas State University. And I'm also an Amateur Film-maker as well. Uh, I'm currently living in Georgia but uh, originally from Philadelphia.

Brandan: Uh,[inaudible] my name is Brandan B-mike Odums. Uh, I'm a Visual Artist, uh, I guess it's the way to summarize what I do. I'm from the Grace[?] Studio from New Orleans, Louisiana. Um,, typically paying large scale um,, using art as a way to bring community together and, and just inspiring challenge and lift us all up. I'm happy to be here.

Kirk: Yeah, and so one of the things that was really interesting that we um,, spoke about um,, during a lot of the panel discussions was this idea of Space, right?

Steven: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: This idea of Black Space and so what does that mean to be black in existing--

Steven: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: You know, in our society. And so, I guess uh, this is a question that's kind of like open but for each of us, you know, in our practices, what does it mean for you to exist in a Black Space and also to create in a ?

Steven: Uh, I see for my self, I- I have trouble understanding that concept you know, because this idea of Black Space um,, one of the participants in the panel uh, earlier today actually said something about how, well, how was it really a Space for us, how was it really safe if it's granted?

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: And you know, that really made me think about that 'cause I was like, again, that is a--that's a real issue. You know, you have to ask permission or give some sort of confirmation--

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: for that space to exist.(2:00) Is that really yours to have or is it just yours that you're allowed to have within that time frame? Until it's deemed valuable to someone else.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: You know, in the historical, because that's more of my background. Historically speaking, we've seen that happened where we have spaces that are for us or created by us into our betterment as a culture, as a society, or as a community. And it kinda gives, you know, ran over, or destroy it, or- or hindered in some kind of capacity. So I kinda you know, I- I kinda wrestle with that idea and even now, is- is- is this constant. Um,, this constant struggle that kinda find the space to create.

Kirk: Right, right.

Steven: That- that endorses what you're trying to do, it endorses your message. And you can't just be who you wanna be in that process, Like you have to kind of placate to other people's sensibilities.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: If you wanna keep a career, if you wanna keep a job, you know.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: And I- I think it's that constant struggle back and forth to find a place to represent yourself accurately and honestly but then at the same time you know, maintain your- your-your sense of self, your- your livelihood, essentially.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: I- I- I wonder if there's a way to think about spaces as not in the physical context but in like a type of uh, energy or in a type of uh, shifting vibration of swords that where the safe space is hinged upon the participants and not as much as the uh, the primary as to where it exists. But even, I can even see, I would choose in this true for even the energy of a space um,... I do feel like a large part of that I guess a friction or large part of that uh, back in 40s in defining those spaces and then making it very difficult to redefine them afterwards. Um,, and I think that's where for me, a lot of public that's why public has its challenges(4:00)because I- I understand that when I create a... when I'm invited to paint a mural along the wall at it's best I'm doing it with the... agreement of the community, with the collaboration of the community. Um,, and sometimes those spaces are spaces that people are afraid to go to. So it's almost like putting up a flag that says, 'this is why a space is beautiful' and when that flag goes up, few things are gonna happen. People can be curious and they come to these spaces that they wouldn't have been to ‘cause like all of it is art and I wanna enter into this space now. I wanna take a photo in front of it. I wanna engage. And then that is worst development can see that as a sign of change. Um,, and we've seen examples like when would the Miami or- or many uh, uh, which I think will probably be the best example of what that looks like when an entire neighborhood can shift because of art. In a negative way where those who were uh, uh, originally there are now can't afford to be there.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: And or- or don't even like what the space represents. So that is always a challenge with me that relates to Space. It's um,, understanding that I lose agency the minute I do my work in the space.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: Because I know, I got murals all over the country and I can't control what happens in those Spaces even though my art is still there as a representation of me.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: I can't be like, "Well, I don't wanna agree that this should be across the street or I don't wanna agree that this event should happen in front of this mural."

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: I'll lose the agency.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: And that's something as, as an Artist that we have to like grapple with in ways, you know. Same with Film-making, you know, you could create something with good intention and then you don't know how it's gonna be used, how the audience can pull the take away.

Steven: Exactly.

Brandan: You know.

Steven: Cause I'm like-- ’cause like kinda like with um,, one of my films, the last one I did um,, it deals with the Native American and African American interaction.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Steven: And kind of unpacking that for people.

Brandan: Mm-hmm

Steven: And in the process, just to kinda help with people's understanding, I use my own filming history.(6:00) Getting that historical context to kinda pull like, 'okay, well, historical events happen around this time based off of that' right? But in the process, I had to constantly be mindful of who my audience could be.

Brandan: Yeah, it has a point there.

Steven: And trying not to police muscle[?] for the same time but like being completely mindful, 'who's gonna watch this? How are they gonna interpret that?' And address that before it even becomes a conversation. And I think, like even in this Space right now, I feel like I have to police what I'm saying, you know, I can't completely be honest towards myself entirely. Like I can't just be reckless and just say whatever I'm thinking without some, some measure-- some measurement or some level of uh, of measured you know, thought prior to me saying something.

Kirk: Mm-hmm. That's interesting. Like what you are talking about, the idea of policing. ‘Cause I think that um, as black people you know, even as black men, you know. The idea of us, having to police ourselves into, kinda like shrink ourselves in, you know, into a who we really are because society might consider we're maybe too angry, or too loud, or too voice stress. Whatever that is, we've always had to shrink ourselves in, in whatever we're discussing. Um, I've recently been working on a project dealing with Housing Discrimination.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: And one of the things that was a fear for me before I kind of like started on that project um, and kinda like we saw that brought into fruition, was how the community would view this idea of Institutionalized Discrimination outside of the realms of slavery. ‘Cause a lot of the conversations when it comes to discrimination deals with slavery happen these, you know, hundreds of years ago, you know, why are we discussing these issues of racism now, right? And a lot of those Institutionalized Oppressions, it was Generational Institutionalized Oppressions you know, that get compounded overtime, get lost in that discussion. And because they get lost, a lot of people only see racism in the frame of 1964 or in the frame of slavery. And so when it's-- you know, we're discussing that idea of(8:00)Space, it's really interesting kind of like how you know, that idea of Space might be different for us then it might be different for someone else whose you know, living in a higher socioeconomic background. You know, who maybe white, you know, who maybe a republican or who maybe on the right side of the [inaudible]. How that's different from, you know, lived experiences from people of Colon[?] in this country.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Steven: Then we kinda talked about the earlier too, like this, this idea of you know, your presence is automatically a statement.

Brandan: Yeah.

Steven: You know

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Steven: Just, just the fact that you're in a-- in a room with someone else, you're saying something just by being there.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: And then when you add on the idea of like, "Well, I'm going to now speak and now I'm going to say something profound. Or I'm gonna-- I'm gonna something that challenges the status quo." Now, that becomes the problem and that becomes more of an issue. And you don't have to say in a threatening language. You don't have to be body seal or- or rat drowning[?] you feel like that.

Brandan: Mm-hmm

Steven: Like all you're just saying is, "This isn't right."

Kirk: Yeah.

Steven: That's just as bad as punches on my, in the face.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: Right.

Steven: And it's just like you know, someone you actually do punch a line in the face, what is that then?

Brandan: Yeah, yeah.

Steven: You know like, is- is- is this idea of every thing are restarting off at a hundred.

Kirk: Yeah.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Steven: And then you're-- and then you're working from there.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: And so in the process, just like you said, it's for some reason we feel that we have to shrink ourselves.

Kirk: Yeah.

Steven: So, it's not really 175.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: You know, even though we're not doing anything.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: So we're walking in a-- in a certain neighborhood, we have to walk a certain way.

Kirk: Yeah.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Steven: We have to dress a certain way.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: Because the fact that I'm here,--

Kirk: Yeah.

Steven: --automatically makes me dangerous.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: Talk a certain way.

Kirk: Yeah.

Brandan: Yeah. It's crazy ‘cause I remember like simple things that will pop up in my head like walking on an empty block. It was like I was walking three blocks, I know that there was a white woman in front of me that was walking the same path.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: And at some point, it dandle me as a... 'wait, I need to stop walking behind her for this long before she assumes something'. So I was like,--

[laughs]

Brandan: --I had to divert what I was gonna do, I had to walk across the street.(10:00)

Steven: Yeah.

Brandan: Just to put her at this and maybe she wasn't even tripping but it was this, in my mind, it was like this thought that, "Okay. I need to like act a certain way. I can't just be present."

Steven: Just like chess.

Brandan: Yeah, it's like chess. It's like with the boys, there was consciousness. But one of my favorite pass is just for James Bow when it talks about art as a disruption of artists disturbing the piece. And- and what I think he was saying with that was just an idea that it's not just that artists are supposed to just be disruptive for the sake of it or just to be reckless.

Steven: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: But he was saying that that's our perception of peace in order for there to be order that has to be this perception of peace. And you know, it's an artist's job to- to be at a hundred to say, "Okay, this is not completely accurate but this perception of peace is not true and we have to investigate that, we have to pierce it, we have to pierce those bubbles. To let people know that my presence might threaten you but you need that bubble to be shattered."

Steven: Yeah.

Brandan: You need to fill this. You need to understand what my voice is about. And um, yeah, there's always a challenge because sometimes you don't want-- I think, it was Kara Walker's lady's, uh, maybe it wasn't a lady's show but she put that uh, that piece out which she kinda like said, "You know. I don't want that weight all the time, I don't wanna have to constantly speak for an experience." You know what I mean? And so sometimes, you- you feel that way like, 'I just want a pink flower' like, I don't wanna have to, but it-- so it is a responsibility in us, there is weight with that responsibility. And sometimes you know, we see what happens at its worst when people don't pick up their responsibility when it is like, "I'm gonna just sell, I'm gonna just make some money" and we could be [inaudible] and then we see what it looks like when you know, everything is about something.

Steven: Yeah, but do you think that's why so many of us gravitate towards, towards the arts in some way? Like in terms of hip hop and all those different things that people are gonna see you're damaging.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: Even like the, the current state [inaudible] which a lot of people view as being damaging to our community in many ways, right? Do you think we(12:00) gravitate towards that because it's more of like at least they're expressing themselves--

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: in a way that I can't?

Kirk: Well I've-- Well, there's, there's room for both the political and also the act of black joy being political.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: Cause I think, the conversation has to miss when it comes to like black art and especially when it comes to music specifically hip hop, right? You know, there's these people that you know, uphold like, you know, there's a difference between the Kendrick Lamar's of the world. And then you have, you know, Lil this and Lil that, you know, what the difference between a lyrics of the two.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: But I think there's a, there's a space. There should be a space and that's what we've been talking about, right? This Black Space is you know, it- it- it encapsulates everything. You can't have, you know, a black man rapping about just living life, right?

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: ‘Cause they know the struggle, right? And you can have no black man, you know, rapping about, you know, their shiny realms if- if they want to.

Brandan: Yeah, right.

Kirk: You know, just enjoying themselves. And for some reason, we've put the dichotomy between it. We said you know, "Oh, black men who rap should only rap like this. This is the respectable type of rap."

Brandan: Yeah.

Kirk: Right? And then this is the not the kind of like the gail[?] type of rap, it's too much, right? What happens to that intellectualism? But there's room for both kind of like speaking about the issues. And just a chance to enjoy yourself, just a chance to rebel in your own blackness that's missing from that conversation.

Brandan: Right and I think that's pulling the good two. Even, even if they don't define it as such a... I remember walking preservation um, preservation. Plantation towards in New Orleans when South is just-- is just, the thing, that's what a lot of people are into in a lot of weird ways. Um, which makes you beg the question, a lot of people, even like families are going there, as like, what are you trying to show? Like my family, what do you come in here for? What are you trying teach your kids? But so this is one Space called the Whitney Plantation and it is a lot years ahead of the other plantation towards. This is the first one...

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: ...that's attempting to tell a(14:00)story of enslaved men.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: It's all about enslaved men. The- the whole thing is one of perspective of this enslave narratives that they found um, not found, but that's been documented. Anyway, me and some friends of mine, I brought like friends of mine who are poets, writers, extremely intelligent people. We were walking around and- and one of us uh, one of the staff members is like, "Yes. At some point we want to do a festival here." And we were kinda toiling with the idea like, "What does that look like? Like how can you do a festival on a plantation ground?" Like, something that represents so much pain, so much-- so much layers of thought.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: And there we got to-- Once we got around, like, how can you even do this? Like then, who would you invite? And then so me, they are by struggling, "Oh, you gotta invite the, you know, the- the- the country's rappers, you gotta invite--. And then one guy, he interrupts it like, "Nah, in this Space you need the Kodak Black. You need--" ‘Cause' that's the type of person that. How did he say? He said it in a way, more profound way, but it's like, "That's the part of blackness that was the most feared. That was a part of blackness that was the most uh, uh, I guess in a way that you wouldn't expect."

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: So in a way that represents the true type of freedom.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: Just to be like, "Imma be this extreme version of- of- of which you might-- of your fear, Imma be the most extreme version of your fear."

Steven: Unapologetically.

Brandan: Unapologetically, right. At which in-- which is maybe the word he- he was using. And- and- and- and that maybe refrain my thoughts around, what-- what we value in terms of our art like, does it have to be-- ‘cause once again, who's the audience?

Steven: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: ‘Cause if we say, "Oh, it was the country's rappers," then it's like, "Okay, that's for the audience that maybe afraid of other rap."

Steven: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: And this is more, you know, they can take this in. This is more like, "Oh this shows the best of what we can be."

Steven: Yeah.

Brandan: You know, look at the words they're using, look at the poetry, look at the imagery. But then you got, "I'm gonna keep using Kodak Black because of these some reasons on my mind."

Steven: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: Then you got Kodak Black but which represents a whole another layer of not ignorance, but surviving. You know what I mean? Like, I didn't have to articulate my self in ways that you(16:00) can't understand and I'm still surviving.

Steven: Yeah.

Brandan: I- I found ways to- to turn in into my strength, to make your children from all the way over there, wanna dress like me, wanna talk like me. And I think that is a whole another level of the power of art, the power of disturbing the peace, all those things. So, yeah.

Steven: But I think the only issue with that is that you know, with hip hop especially in the contemporary sense--,

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Steven: --so much of it has been influenced by-- I mean, the second somebody sold a mixed tape, you know, on 1970 something. You know, hip hop was comprised, that in my opinion, right?

Brandan: Right.

Steven: Certainly, that you were able to commodify it in any kind of way. You can argue that it falls on the whole capitalist stuff.

Brandan: Yeah.

Steven: And... but my issue though is that in more recent history, it seems like there was at least a voice there, up until recently and now all of a sudden, that voice isn't there anymore in terms of us, dictating something. We're not the gate keepers of much of anything in hip hop anymore. Its been sold to us.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: As opposed to us, being the witness Litmustest of what's salable.

Brandan: Yeah.

Kirk: And even co-opted.

Brandan: Yeah, yeah. I think that's true in a lot of ways but I also think that there's still a lot of things that we determine what gives the past and what doesn't. You know, I mean, rap has become pop music now, so it's no longer--

Steven: Yeah.

Brandan: It's no longer in the Space with completely covered by--

Steven: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: --us. But I think still, we maintained the uh, barometer of- of- of- of what gets to pass. Um, we've seen examples of that good and bad. You know what I mean? In terms of how... in- in a shifting though, cause- cause you're right, you're starting to see more and more people who are growing their fan base outside of their personal geography.

Steven: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: Cause it used to be the point where if somebody did make it large, did-- at least their- their space had to co-sign them.(18:00)

Kirk: Yeah.

Steven: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: Now in the age of internet rappers where a rapper can be in their bedroom the entire time. They can blow up. [cross-talk]

Steven: Yeah, they'll build a body in the Soundcloud.

Brandan: And- and yeah, nobody is even on the street who knows who they are. Nobody in their school knows that they even rap but on Soundcloud, they have all these followers.

Steven: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: But I do think still, blackness has a whole, like I talked about in the panel earlier, blackness has a whole [inaudible] persona-- pr-proximity to oppression, that is cool. Unfortunately, infortunately, in a way that can't be curated or it can't be uh, forced. You know what I mean? Like when we see artists who pretend to speak the language and people can immediately be like notice it's not authentic.

Steven: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: At least, there's still some of that. You know what I mean? I don't know how much long that we got that, but there's still some of that, where- where we are able to say, "That's not authentic." And then people trust the black voice to be like, "Yeah, you are probably right." You know what I mean?

Steven: Yeah.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: 'Cause that, I mean, it kinda seem to me the second. These are the same people saying like, "Woah!" Yeah, this person is just lying on the record and it's okay.

Brandan: It's okay. [cross-talk]

Steven: That was.. That I mean, to me, I don't know that kinda blew my mind a little bit cause I- I gotta grew up where I was just like, "Oh, that would ruin someone's career right on the gate."

Brandan: Yeah.

Steven: And it just like this idea of like this- this Space that we had, is it being compromised further?

Brandan: Yeah.

Steven: Than- than what it wasn't we just decide to sell it.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Steven: Now because of that, it was almost like a door which is cracked.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Steven: And then it opened up further to now on the point where it's like, we're getting sold an idea as opposed to us selling an idea.

Kirk: Yeah, and also like when you're talking about the idea of like um, Space. There has been like a push back to you know, people being in their own Space. We've- we've heard it all the time. You know, why do you want this safe Space for yourself? Why can't I come in?

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: Why can't I come in to the Space? And that's kind of like a reaction that re-- You know, tack to them like some people kind of like whining their own Space to exist in their bodies.(20:00)

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: And so it's interesting because you know, it is kind of like tough for me ‘cause at the same time, I want my, you know, the art that I do which is very socially conscious to be out there so that people can see black joy and also black pain. But at the same time, I do wanna kind of curate a Space for black people, black men, black women, and then like me, to be able to talk about some of these issues and deal with it. Cause it's a form of therapy in a way.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: And I think, art is probably one of the biggest ways of not just therapy but also education. And so I guess, you know, in your experience, how have both of you dealt with that issue of Space and who comes into it? And have you grappled with that issue of, "Should I let certain people in? Should I borrow certain people from coming in?" And you know, curating that Space, you know, from your own practices.

Brandan: Well, I think, I mean for me, you know, this is a decision you have to make. You know, it's that when something happens like, and you're kinda creating something. I feel like there's something that happens when there's a moment where it's like you can go either way and you have to come up with how you're gonna stand on this.

Steven: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: So first, it was the film idea, buying you the name ahead um, there was a seen rappers talking about um, you know, Native American, African American interaction but then as I was going further in, it got blacker.

[laughter]

Brandan: You know, I'm toward to him because I'm talking about my family history.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: And I identify as African-American, you know, despite what my answer sheet might me. There was a reason why we left where we're from and part of that is because uh, for riot. Riot, there would be later race riots in 1906. People were getting less in the streets of Atlanta because people are riding the street cars.

Kirk: Yeah.

Brandan: And it shouldn't be, you know. But the, the point that I've made in that film when I started showing, you know, I extrapolated that and start talking lynching as a whole.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: And how that was done across the board(22:00) for all this variety of reasons. And I made a choice as to whether or not to show these lynching photos. And have the names of the people who then lives, alongside that and have a go-- a montage, that kinda explain, 'this is what happens, this is what it looks like'.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: I kinda had to rest for a second, ‘cause like if my-- If I'm doing this, I need to do it. You know, I need to-- I need to own that. And show that the people in they-- whatever they get from me, that's what they get from it.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: How would they react to it? They react to it. But there was a one[?], you know, and I had to come over with like, "All right. This is the moment." When I started.. when I got that first image and I was like, "All right, here we go." Like, am I doing this? And I had to make that decision so it was kinda like, you know, you just got to take what comes with it. That's- that's how I finally get it with.

Kirk: But I think that important thing is that you documented it. You know, as a film-maker, you were able to kind of like document these experiences. 'Cause when I was like thinking about the idea of Space, right? One of the important parts that um, that kinda like are important facets that I focused in on. You know, in my own project, dealing with Housing Discrimination, was the idea of archiving information, right? You know, what a group of people can try to strip or burn the books or even try to take away of people's you know, ability of self-determination but they can't take their mind away. You know, these stories get passed generation to generation whatever those stories might be. Stories of oppression get passed generation to generation. You can't strip the mind away. And so when I was actually focusing in on my work in some of things I did, archiving the information was very important for me. Like research into the system of red lining, you know.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: This investment from you know, black neighborhoods you know, that didn't get those investments, being able to find the maps for those, you know, areas at with red line. My own neighborhood in Orleans, New Jersey is probably one of the lowest income neighborhoods in the State. Um, and literally, a train track away, you know, the typical stereotypical train track away(24:00)or the stereotypical block away, you know, is South Orange, New Jersey. One of the highest income neighborhood in the State of New Jersey. And so I'm literally living on the border of that Space between the two.

And so it had to have been something that I had to archive in document. Because it's not something that could readily be seen. It's not something that you could hold, right? You know, Institutionalized Discrimination isn't something that you can hold in your hands. It's not an object and so it's more of the abstract that when you actually documented. When people are actually able to see it, I think that's the time when those Spaces time tend to melt together and people are kinda like gaining an understanding of what's really going on but I feel like it could only happen when there are some archival information whether it's to murals or whether it's to film. You know, there's has to be that form to live for other people so that you can see.

Brandan: Yeah, but I mean, you were on the risk. You know, it's like-- it's like a risk that you have to take if you choose to do that ‘cause even keeping the archive could ruffle feathers.

Kirk: Yeah.

Brandan: You know, like you're from the South, you know how that is. In Georgia, you'd be surprised how- how easy it is to kind of just overlook the fact that there were that many slaves in Georgia.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: Because of how much they hide that history.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: And the pl- but it is weird cause it's like the plantation houses are still there.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: But you wouldn't know people who lived and died on that land.

Steven: Yeah.

Brandan: And work to-- and were worked to death on that land. You know, you wouldn't know that how many Native Americans were enslaved alongside of Africans in that State. You know, and then subsequently were forced out.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: You don't really see that.

Kirk: Yeah.

Brandan: But when you start opening that- that pandora boxes, starts showing it. You know, it ruffles feathers and you have to make the decision, 'are you gonna talk about that or not?'

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: And I think does-- At least, that's where I was coming from, it was like, "Yeah, this is uh, a thing that I wanna showcase."

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: "This is the way I wanna express myself and- and also archive things." But at the same time, you know, I'm fighting against the fact that there's an active effort to (26:00) erase that history.

Kirk: Yeah.

Brandan: And at the same time showcasing that history.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: While there's a kind of active effort to erase it, it's going to cause problems.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: And people are gonna react in a certain way too.

Kirk: And I guess that's why I've always um, kind of like looked up to even with Colin Kaepernick has been doing. You know, what the idea of you know, being in a Space.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: That is hostile to black voices. You know, the NFL viewership is largely, you know, from the right side of the [inaudible]. And so the idea of kneeling, you know, even if you know, you're protesting police brutality, that's the idea of symbolism of it. You know, it ruffles the feathers just like what you're talking about. But he kept on doing it because he believed in this cause, he didn't care. You know, in that moment, he knew that his black humanity was on the line. I feel that you know, for us as people of color, we don't have a choice to not be political because the political comes to us.

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: You know, no matter what we do. And the funny thing is Colin Kaepernick spoke to uh, um, basically a soldier, right? He spoke to one of them, a military spokesperson who told them that kneeling was--

Brandan: Right.

Kirk: --the appropriate way to do it and he still gets hate. And so it's really interesting how even though Colin Kaepernick followed the advice of someone who was in the military, for the proper way of kneeling to protest of what he was doing. There are still people in our society that turned it against him and that still missed the point, that disappoint. And so it's really interesting how you know, agendas can--

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: --exert themselves in the work or in the activism.

Brandan: Mm-hmm. Yeah and it's- it's always the case of, of thinking about, we think about Space and we think about like the ruffling of the feathers. You think about this idea that who- who- who is your audience? You know like so.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: Or the responsibility of the platform too when I think about Colin, I think about some- someone who understands deeply the audience and the platform he has in front of that audience.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: And- and I think we all have the ability to(28:00) create something that at its best, people can receive without understanding what they're receiving. You know, we're able to like trick them in a way.

Kirk: Yeah.

Brandan: You know what I mean? Um, that culture is able to do that. In- in sports culture is a part of that as well, where we can-- It pierces those bubbles, it crosses those lines, you'll eat the food of a culture before you-- without even understanding the nuances or the troubles or you listen to the music of a culture--

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: --before you even understand. So, I think, within that, there is that moment that you have to articulate, to- to ruffle feathers, to do all these things and it does a responsibility cause you can choose not to and we've seen year, after year, after year of athletes who chose not to do anything knowing that they were a part of-- or they are a part of a community that's always at risk but you know, they chose to respond in subtle ways or not at all.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: And so, thinking about the legacy of the past and thinking about all those great spokespersons of the past, and understanding how the stakes was too high for them to be quiet, and so we understand though the- the- the role we have to use our arts to at its best humanize us.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: You know what I mean? At its best to kind of take the edge off and I remember, um, who was I talking to? It was a conversation I had with someone, I think was Mos Def and he was talking about- Oh, yeah, I see him. So I apologize most. Yeah, I see. He was talking about- it was during in one of these incidents when in South, in Louisiana, had this incident called Jena Six where these six students had a schoolyard fight and it was six black kids versus a group of white kids.

The six black kids were charged with attempted murder as opposed to it being like, "Oh, this is a fight." You know what I mean? And the- the- the white kids were kind of just, slapped on the wrist. It became this huge, people paid attention. Anyway, Mos Def is someone as he explained to his kids what was happening and the type of how racism that was being faced.

He said to the kids were like, "I don't understand. Like, don’t they like Michael(30:00) Jordan? Like, don't they like-?" Like, how could you, in the context of so many black people that are celebrated, that are lifted above us all. You know, how could you have room for hate? At its best, I guess that's what we hope to do with our art, is to create empathy. You know, what I mean?

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: That, you know? That is common sense that some of these things are wrong, like you- in the hope is that maybe, it's an ill hope, you know? Dr. King changed his ways and towards to end of his life. But it's the hope that all I got to do is show you that there's a problem and maybe you would adjust, maybe you would be like, "Oh, I just didn't know that was happening." So.

Steven: Yeah, I- I recently told somebody about-- We had- I had a conversation like about that, recently and I was like, "You know, if it was just about ignorance, education would have solved it."

Brandan: Right.

Steven: You know? And it hasn't. And, therefore, there's still some conscious, you know, effort.

Brandan: Right.

Steven: In some way, or fashion that's still at work. And, I don't know if it's like, we just got to... just scrap it and just focus on audience[?], whoever wants to listen, whoever wants to be a part of that conversation, or if we should still make the effort to try to change people's minds, right? I personally, I am- I am beyond trying to change people's minds who don't want to be changed.

If you want to hear something, that's- that's different. If you're willing to be open to an idea but if you have no reason to, i- it's not my job to try to convince somebody else to serve my interest in that way. And it's like- especially when I was talking about the betterment of- of my people because my people is also, in- in regards-- It's like this ethereal kind of notion like my people but it's like, I'm also talking with my family, like my immediate family.

Brandan: Yeah.

Steven: My children, you know? Like, that kind of thing and it's like, "Well, I have to look at that, I have to help them. I can't be focusing on you having an epiphany at 60 years old and start treating me like a human being(32:00)all of a sudden." Like, you know, it's like, "No." Like, "If you're gonna get with it or you're not."

Brandan: That's real.

Steven: And- and I kind of feel like that's not really- that shouldn't be our place anymore because it's like the time for that, the time to be ignorant and just being unaware, is over. That education happened and it still happens, it's still out there. You can look, turn on the TV, you can read a book, you know? And even have- [inaudible crosstalk]

Kirk: And people are doing it for a living.

Steven: Yeah, how do people were trying to talk and trying to sway are older than us.

Brandan: Right.

Steven: You know? They were there, they saw everything and yet they still are hard line and not changing, so it's like--

Brandan: But it- it's still in a way, it has to be- when you think about, using the color example, it's still part of the motivation in a way, it's still to say, yo- you're not just preaching to the choir. There's the- there's the idea that your film, your art, your words is gonna strike someone, in a way that-- You know, like Richard Wright said, he said, "I wasn't writing books, I was writing bombs." You know what I mean?

It's like this idea that we have a power to light, or to be the light, or to find the light, so others can-- Whatever it was, that wall that they built, that forced them not to hear it when the teacher said it, or not to hear it when the news uh, reported it. But somehow, culture can pierce the wall, you know what I mean?

Kirk: Yeah.

Brandan: I can't remember who it was, I think is Dr. Cornel West that said, "Almost always, culture was the reason that revolutions weren't violent. Because it was the culture that d through first." It was the- after Police song[? that happened. Before, ideally, it really got down to the point where people were out there really trying to combat police. You know what I mean? So it's like the culture would go first in hopes that it would create the dialogue, so that it doesn't have to be as tints of a- of a- of a conflict as it could be.

And you know, that can go both ways, that can go from the after[?] Police type narrative or it can go,(34:00) uh, 'What a Wonderful World' type narrative, where art has the ability to do both. It can be hopeful in saying, "Okay, this is what we want things to be, so let's all hold hands and let's hope for this." Or it could be like, "I'm showing you ideas and I'm frustrated, I'm angry, I'm mad."

That kind of been through the film, through the art, through the poetry. And so, I do think, in the context of the original question about Spaces, it's almost as if we create these Spaces but we want them... and maybe we don't but somehow they could also be examples for connection, even outside of the Black Spaces that we want them to be. Because proximity to the problem is also a big part of solving the problem.

Steven: Yeah.

Brandan: So, maybe people, out of their own curiosity, they want to be as proximate to the problem, they want to be as proximate to the spaces for the best but then, you see the examples of winners[?] at it's worst too. When it's like people approx-- They want to be in those spaces because they keeping the game, they're like, "Oh, this what we're doing, this how we're talking." Then they go back and they're like, "Okay, we know how to make this profitable, how to sell this product, whatever, whatever."

Kirk: Yeah, it comes a commodity.

Brandan: Exactly, and that's- that's tricky because you know, a lot of people are celebrating Kaepernick for the Nike situation, you know? I'm a fan of Kaepernick, you know? I can't- we, we met a bunch of times and we're- we're friendly towards each other and I, you know- and I've also worked with Nike as well and and I understood both sides of the- of the debate when people are like celebrating.

The-- What Kaepernick did with Nike and then people who are critical over Kaepernick, did with Nike. It's like, you know, I can ascend both to those arguments. You know, that there is a price tag on- on activism in a way, you know what I mean? You can't sell it. And to whose benefit? I don't know, I think Colin is a person who has integrity and intention enough to--

We saw what he's done with his money to know that this is not just going in his pocket to say, "Okay, I'm now a richer activist." You know what I mean?(36:00) But we also know money is not the solution, that we can't buy our way out of these problems so, you know, I think there's a lot to be said, in terms of the spaces that we're in now. And I wonder if our elders navigated the same types of spaces. I wonder if Dr. King was tempted in the same ways as some of our leaders or- or- or contemporaries are tempted in sometimes to be like, you know, "I like what you said there, let us use that sound bite for this car commercial."

Steven: Yeah.

Brandan: You know what I mean? I mean, I'm- I'm- I'm pretty sure no one approached Dr. King during his lifetime, [inaudible crosstalk] to be like, yeah.

Kirk: [inaudible crosstalk] It was like [laughs]

Brandan: Yeah, you know, what I mean? But I wonder how he would responded to it, I wonder if he would saw the value in it to say, "Okay." You know. So, that's interesting because I think we are in that space where we, people acknowledge our power and also we're in the-- I want to say, we're in the room but in some of those cases, we are in the room.

Like Nike has a very diverse staff, you know what I mean? I'm pretty sure there was tons of black people in the room that was like, "Y'all need to pay attention with Kaepernick's doing, y'all can't ignore him." And so, we're in the rooms now, we can say, "Paintings is this-" You know, and we also seen what happens when it's done wrong. Remember the Pepsi example?

Steven: Yeah.

Brandan: It was like, "We were in that room, I mean, duh."

Steven:  Yeah, we didn't get out, any thought.

Brandan: So, yeah, so I- I think- so, we want brands to show what we want them to be present, we want them to be active and knowing what's going on. But yeah... so I think it- it's something I'm still trying to understand. I'm- There's these questions in my head about you know, like what would it take for you as a filmmaker? You know what I mean? Where- where would the line be drawn in terms of something that appears to be a great opportunity but that could also be um, a slippery slope of sorts.

Steven: Yeah, I struggle with that every day, you know? Because I mean, like ultimately, I want to to create things. I want like- and even outside of film-making I wanna, you know, create institutions for people. I wanna help people. (38:00) Generally speaking but especial- especially black people, right? And the problem though is like, well, there's always this- this dichotomy between, you know, do you have like a 'burn-it-all to the ground' mentality or compromising mentality? And you have to constantly reconcile the two.

And it's like, well you can't - you can't destroy everything, you know? If I gave-- If anyone of you guys had a million dollars in your pocket, you know how to spend it. You know? And that's kind of my philosophy. It's like, "Well, yeah, ultimately if somebody gave me a million dollars, I'll find a way to spend it. I'll find somewhere to put it."

But I think it's like that- that issue, it's like, "Well, I still speak English." You know? "Nothing is  stopping me from learning another language. Nothing is stopping me from leaving this country right now, anyway." You know? And I choose to stay here, I choose to still speak English, I choose to still recognize the dollar, you know?

There's- there's that compromise that has to happen or you're just not doing any of it and it's that- that idea of that slippery slope is like, well, if somebody came up to me and was like, "Hey, you know, Netflix has a deal, you can just, you know, create all whatever kind of content you want on their platform, do you take it?" "Well, I hope so, I think I would."

Brandan: Yeah, yeah.

Steven: But at the same time, I mean, how much of my influence? How much of my voice is there? And I think that's the question we always have to con- have to constantly ask ourselves, is like, "As the second we're taking that dollar, there's- there's a contract with that. There's some sort of- you know, somebody has a say in what you do now and do you really want that?" And that kind of leads me to a question I had because- I kind of asked this yesterday during a- one of the speakers, you know.

"Should there be a push for young academics, so just people in general, in our community to create institutions that are outside of traditional academic institutions and traditional social institutions to aid our- to aid African-American communities?" And I mean, I know you'd probably say,(40:00) "Yeah, right."

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: Well, so, what do you think?

Brandan: I mean I think, I- I think I've struggle with the the idea of being an academic. I think that- I- I think, um- There's a- I think it's necessary but I think it is also a privilege to think about what you think about, you know what I mean? To have time to think about what you think about, you know what I mean? And so, I think that there is a space that's appropriate for that.

I guess, my struggle with creating those spaces would be how does that address or aid? I remember, I was speaking at Tulane University in New Orleans and it was just an amazing panel conversation that was amongst black scholars and I was on the panel but I was learning so much from everyone else that I just didn't want to speak at all. And then, this brother- this young brother at a- during the Q&A, he- he- he got up and he had a question, he was like, "Man, all this sounds good." He's like, "But 20 minutes before I got here, I just interrupted two young kids from getting in a fight, one was about to pull a gun." He was like, "What does this do for them?" He was like, "What is all this conversation, all this observation, all this investigation?" He was like, "How does this impact them?" And he was like, "We can't forget that that's right outside the door."

Kirk: Yeah.

Brandan: He was like, "That's literally, that was like two blocks away when that- where that happened." And so, I think for me, it's always been the struggle of understanding both sides of it, understanding being in both of those spaces where I'm- I love being in the- in the- in the academic spaces where I'm able to challenge myself and learn. But I'm also understanding the drought that's outside.

Kirk: It's really interesting how you're talking on about kind of like this idea of you know, the- the getting outside of the bubble, you know? Sometimes there can be an academic bubble, there is an academic bubble and because I've been an educator um, for quite a bit of time and I've always been an educator in lower socioeconomic areas.

And so, when I'm actually engaging the students in artwork, I always frame it in a way(42:00) that they're able to get the social impacts of the art being created. For instance, there's this artist called Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and she creates work dealing with catcalling, you know? On the street, it always says, you know?

Brandan: Right, she's dope.

Kirk: Yeah, the drawings to- they know, 'stop telling women to smile', you know? And she places it, in you know, in New York City, Philly, in all of these different places. And when you're able to engage students into work and you're actually able to talk about it, sometimes they don't- they don't even realize at that moment that the behavior that they might be engaged in, is a form of, you know, even mild sexism, you know? Towards someone, you know?

'Cause it's tough, 'cause even you know, we, as black people, we have our own prejudices against each other. Think about colorism, right? That's a prejudice that we have to fight for ourselves, that's outside that black-white dichotomy that we have, right? There are so many issues that we have, you know, in a lot of places such as the Dominican Republic, they're fighting the idea of being black itself.

Brandan: Yeah.

Kirk: You know, right? And they've all- they were all carried on that slave ship, right? They were all on that same island, all descendants of slaves and they're fighting even the idea of being black, right? And so, there are so many issues that  we have to deal with, even in our own community, so I do think it's important for us to also not just talk about some of the issues that are, you know, that black-white dichotomy that I was talking about, right?

Brandan: Mm-hmm.

Kirk: But also some of the issues that we fight inside of ourselves because a lot of the racism that we see in this world or discrimination that we see in this world, becomes internalized, right? You know, we see, maybe, you know, the- the fact that there is a racial wealth gap, so we feel that we are lesser than and so, we play that role of being lesser than, right? And so, in order for that education to happen, it has to start with us first, right?

We can't be so naive to think that, you know, 'we know it all' right? And that we don't need the education, it's the other people that need it, right? It has to- The education has to start first with us, that groundwork has to start with us and then branch out in that way.

Steven: But it's like,(44:00) you know, "Whose education is that?"

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Steven: And I think that that's one of the issues, it's like, well, yeah, we're speaking about it-- Or a particular issue, we're speaking about our status and whatnot but it's like, who- whose voice are we really using when we do that?

Kirk: Yeah.

Steven: And we, in these positions, in this certain position of, I guess, pseudo-privilege, you know? How are we- how- like, how are we evaluating that? How are we testing ourselves and challenging each other in terms of what voices are we using? Are we using our own voice? Or are we just copying somebody's voice that was instilled in us? And I think, you know, being able to create something that's independent of these spaces but still has the same merit.

Kirk: Yeah.

Steven: I think that is one way in which we can try to validate that. Like create a space that-that is academic but academic on our terms. Academic on terms that- that aren't tied to the politics of a space, or tied to- to the interests of some, you know, person who is bankrolling everything.

Kirk: Yeah.

Steven: So, you can speak for yourself or you can come up with these notions and ideas that you can now put out into our community, and you at least know it's honest, you at least know it's coming from you.

Kirk: Right, right. It's authentic. You know, the one, um, the one thing that came into mind when I was thinking about that was Afropunk, right? The idea of a space, even though it's become commodified now, as it's become more popular, it still started out of a place of, you know, black authenticity because you know, the idea of, you know, the punk, right? And kind of like this idea of, you know, the "weird", right? Of society, you know, and black people being able to contribute to that society, you know?

And be themselves, you know, outside of that, you know, male gays, white male gays, whatever you want to call it, right? Was just a revelation that has become so popular now, that everyone's going to it, you know, you don't just see black people at Afropunk anymore. And it's very interesting because, you know, at the same time, yes, we're talking about the issue of space in art but at the same time, you know, it's become such a revelation in our society because(46:00) we're thinking about some of those ideas of space, you know?

It did start out as a Black Space and then it kind of morphed into kind of like this universal idea, and not only this universal idea but like- it's not even just in New York, you know? You have the South Africa one, so it's really interesting, like now, we're talking about worldwide, right? And so, when you're actually on dealing with the kind of like that issue of space, you know, and creating a space outside of our own, you know?

How do you view it in the lens of, you know, outside of America? Because sometimes, we do take an American centric view to what space might be, 'cause, um, I was listening to a panel before and one of-- An academic from the University of São Paulo was talking about how in that- in Brazil, in that country, a lot of the Brazilians, you know, when you talk about the idea of, you know, black people being mistreated, they don't feel it as such a big idea, you know? They say, you know, "Why are you talking about this race issue?" You know? She said that, what the white Brazilians would tell you is that, "Oh, you're being like the African-Americans by making this a race issue." Right? "Why are you bringing that African-American centric idea to this?" You know, "To our country." And so, what do you guys think about that idea of space in, maybe like a country that is not our own? And how that would work? Whether it is an art or even in film and how we can apply that, maybe to like America. What can we take from that?

Brandan: I mean, I think that's- that's the beauty of hip hop in a way, like that story of hip hop and- and- and an investigation of what it is now is a process of trying to understand how it got there, you know what I mean? There was something that was extremely uh, singular and isolated, you know, and- and poor black and brown communities that exported all over the world.

In all over the world had a similar trajectory where things started off in that space and the poorest and most disenfranchised environments and then grew on its own, almost like a virus if you want to look at it that way. Where-- And now, hip hop(48:00)on all fronts has become, not only the universal language of pop but also the universal language of struggle.

When you go into the space, you'll see the most oppressed individuals, and not universally but in a lot of spaces now, all over the world, you see the most oppre- oppressed people using hip hop as the means to articulate their oppression. And there's a lot of power in it, I don't see that as a- as an issue because I just see that as a part of the magic, as a part of the genius of blackness and the beautiful thing about it is that it continuously evolves.

Because the same thing happened with jazz, the same thing happened with rock and roll, the same thing. You know what I mean? So, the fact that we see these caps, per se, in terms of those experiences with Afropunk, for example, like, "Oh, now it's getting to the point where it's- it's no longer this- this private thing that we established." Traditionally, what's happened then next, is that something new comes along.

Steven: Yeah.

Brandan: That is born out of the desire for, even, deeper. Because Afropunk is in- indeed a- a- a child of hip hop because it was like, "Okay, we're a part of this culture but we don't really feel like we fit all the way in this culture, so let's create our own version of this." And then, it is like it keeps bubbling up and then that bubbles up and then, now something else is gonna come from be- behind it. That's a part of that like, "Okay, that's happening but we don't feel that, so let's do this."

So, I think when you zoom out and just look at the formula or the cycle, you see that that is the space, you know what I mean? That- that is the best definition of what a Black Space looks like, it's that formula that as these things get processed through, as these things start with us and then grow to the point that it's still, somehow, connected to us but it's not so much us, then something else follows it.

And so, who knows what that looks like tomorrow? I mean, I- I especially and we know, we've probably have to ask some of the, um, the younger folks, you know what I mean? Like, "What are those spaces for you now?" You know what I mean? Like,(50:00) talking to these high school and middle school students and be like, "Okay, what are the Black Spaces that you go to?" And- and- and because I'm pretty sure none of our elders saw hip hop coming. I'm pretty sure they were like, "What is going on over there in a corner?" For them to be doing something in there, now it's 'boom'.

So, I don't even think it's for us to define it, sometimes, because I think we're probably gonna watch it, and engage it, and investigate it, be critical of it, um, but I think that may be the beauty of Black Space is that it's that whole formula. Um, and with that, I mean, I mean, we forget that jazz was once called 'The Devil's Music' and I was recently at Duke University, there was a celebration in Thelonious Monk, and I'm sitting there, it was a performance of some of his hits and it's literally like a crowd of white people, like this, like intensely watching.

Kirk: And contemplating.

Brandan: Yes, it's like it's like a scholarly play now, and I'm like, "This was the devil's music." Like, "People were afraid of this." Like, "People like turn it off." Like that's-- You know what I mean? And now, it's something to be, and I'm wondering if we're gonna get to the point where you go to Princeton, you're gonna see like an investigation of- of Talib Kweli or an investigation of knives but it's like-

Steven: That's gonna be an investigation of like Lewis [inaudible]

Brandan: Yeah, that's Lewis- [crosstalk]

[laughter]

Brandan: Or maybe, maybe it's an investig-- I mean, but- in our last time we started to see that right? We started to see these these discourses on hip hop or classes even, given by, you know, Bun B is a professor, you know what I mean? Seeing how hip hop has evolved from being in the street to now being something that's seen as poetry, that's seen as like the use of words that's- that what it should be, the use of words that have transcended time and space.

Steven: There's kind of interesting 'cause it's almost like, to some degree, hip hop's kind of late to the party on that, like, you know, where we're just now starting to give it academic credence and it's been around for going off 50 years.

Brandan: Right, but then that goes back to the idea of(52:00) whose, I guess, whose validation. Because I know- I don't know if you can find a contemporary scholar who was not inspired by hip hop at some point, or inspired by the words of a record that kind of, you know, that they sampled, you know what I mean?

Whether you're talking to [inaudible] or whether you're talking to [inaudible] you know, you see this extreme love of hip hop because it's- it's so connected into who we are that we know we even have to define it as scholarly, we just knew it. It moved us in a way that- that one with hope, good education would, if that's even the correct way to say it.

So, I think what you're saying is- I don't know if hip hop is late or if it's the the white audience is late to appreciating it on that level.

Kirk: Yeah.

Brandan: You know what I mean? Um, I'm pretty sure any one of our contemporaries could have done that as fascinating which they are doing, a fascinating class on the beauty of hip hop, even before people saw the beauty in hip hop.

Steven: Because just on how it has spread. I mean, that- that notion, like you're talking about, you know, some poor black and brown kids from the Brooks[?] that are- that created a brand new genre and then it spread across the entire world during the Cold War era. That's like, we created propaganda in a sense, in that way, like, or at least the- the means for propaganda in that sense, in a way that our own country couldn't, our own government struggled to do.

Kirk: And it's made its way to suburbia now, you know? There's always been like that.

Brandan: But- But- But once again, once you zoom out, that's been happening since the spirituals, that's been happening since- since- since rock and roll or jazz. You know, it all had the same thing. Where it was born out of oppression, you know, the spirituals didn't come from the pews of the church, it came from the- the- the fields of the- of the plantation, you know?

So it's was like, it's born out of oppression and part of the magic is, like I was saying in the panel earlier, it's like,(54:00) "How do you do that?" Like, "Why are you so happy?" Like, "Why-" It's almost like, "I didn't give you a permission to turn this into gold, so now I need- I need some." Like, "I'm coming, I- I need my percent." And that's kind of how it happens, you know what I mean? But it's just the cycle keeps going, it keeps going.

Same with the food, you know what I mean? It's like, some of the best dishes that we celebrate aren't what meant to be great dishes, that was the magic.

Steven: Yeah. It's fine dining now.

Brandan: Yeah, exactly.

Steven: They were ones as to here to say like, that sell sould food like- as if it's like some French [crosstalk] You know?

Brandan: Yeah, and the thing about that is like that- is a- it's all connected to what we've been saying. It's like, whether it's spaces, whether it's ideas, whether it's our identity, it's this thought that one; it shouldn't be hinged upon the outsiders, stamping it saying, "This is valuable." We always knew it was valuable. When you fit- That food always did something for you, whether not health-related but it did something for you that satisfied your soul.

The music did something to you that elevated you, you know what I mean? The art did something that confirmed your existence. It doesn't need the audience to-- it doesn't need the outside audience to say, "Yeah, now this is- this is it." You know what I mean? So, I think with that, I think space as a construct, definitely is connected to safety, you know. Safe spaces is important for us to define those spaces but I think it's also important for us to acknowledge the power we have in continuing to shift space, and continuing to, not necessarily be destroyed because the space is no longer ours or because the space is no longer what we thought it was gonna be.

I think our power has always been-- We didn't want to be on a plantation. We didn't ask for that but we transformed it. You know what I mean? We didn't ask for the getto but we found a way to turn it into something that was valuable. And so, I think the beauty and the power of black folk, you put us in any space and it's gonna be a Black Space.(56:00) It's almost impossible for it not to be, it's like the one-drop rule, you know what I mean? Like, you put a drop of us anywhere and it's gonna be very difficult for that space to be what it was.

Kirk: Black history has been the history of survival.

Brandan: Exactly, and not only in black history is American history, is - it's the most- or somebody said, uh, I don't know who said this and it probably could be referenced in a much better way, but he said, "The only true American who had to dilute themselves and become something new was the black person. The only person that came here and stripped of everything, had no connection to what they were and had to form into something that was unique and original in its own." You know what I mean? And so, there are so many ways to look at that, good and bad but I do think that, that in lines the power and the magic of black art, Black Space, is that it's so fluid.

Kirk: Mm-hmm.

Brandan: So yeah, that's how I feel.

Kirk: You hear me.

Steven: I know. I feel like that kind of just ended it all.

Kirk: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Steven: We didn't just [inaudible] like.

[laughter]

Kirk: Well, this concludes-- And you know, this has been like a really great conversation, just this idea of colleagues speaking about space and kind of like each of us in our own artistic practice and so I think, you know, it's important for us to kind of like, deal with these issues in the public sphere. So definitely, this concludes, you know, our presentations, you know, on this podcast. I want to thank Princeton University again for, you know, inviting us into the space and now, we are signing off. (57:30)

[END]

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