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MF GALAXY

MF GALAXY is a weekly podcast powered by four mighty engines: * Writers on writing: the craft and the business * Pop culture including TV, movies, graphic novels, and more * Progressive politics, activism, and social enterprise * Africentric change-makers, histories, cultures, art, and more! Mixing brand-new interviews with classic conversations (from my archive of 23 years in broadcasting) with famous and dynamic figures in the arts, Hollywood, and politics, MF GALAXY will take you to places you've never been before, and deliver fresh insights on the places you've been.
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Now displaying: 2015
Dec 22, 2015

Last fall I was one of the guests of honour at Pure Spec, one of E-Town’s most important conventions, and because I was giving a talk, I missed a session that people were raving about. They said that an indie author who’d had major sales was handing out her success secrets for free!

Being an indie author myself and also very, very cheap, I immediately cursed myself for having missed such an excellent chance, and then remembered, Dude, you’ve got a podcast! You can ask anybody for anything!

So I asked Krista D. Ball to tell me and thus you how she went from a low-selling epic fantasy series to being able to pay her mortgage from book sales.

Krista Ball is not only a charming and delightful interviewee, she’s also the author of 13 novels and novellas including the Spirit Caller series, the Historical Writing Guides Series, First (wrong) Impressions, and Limelight.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, she tells us:

  • How she boosted her sales from nearly zero to clearly hero
  • The importance of starting a mailing list, and what service to run that list
  • Setting up your Author Central page on Amazon
  • The sweet spot for pricing ebooks, when to throw a discount on them, and why
  • What “supported sales” are, and why you need them
  • How and why to make boxed sets and bundles of ebooks
  • The importance of cover design and where and how to commission one, and
  • Why it pays authors to have one of their books bundled with those of six other writers even though the entire bundle will be sold for only 99 cents

Krista Ball spoke with me by Skype on November 25, 2015. During our conversation she cites E-Town author Eileen Bell, author of Seeing the Light and The First Circle, and I cite E-Town author Wayne Arthurson, author of the Leo Desroches mystery novels.

I began by asking Krista to reveal her strategies for how an indie author can sell more books.

 

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If you’re looking for awesome audiobook enjoyment, visit my Minister Faust is Creating Audiobooks page on Patreon. Tomorrow, December 23, 2015, episode 2 of The Coyote Kings, Book One: Space-Age Bachelor Pad goes live with one solid hour of entertainment, plus bonus features!

Dec 15, 2015

Political Scientist Michael Parenti is a tireless activist-academic who has taught at many colleges and universities inside and outside the United States. He is a celebrated lecturer whose humour and anecdotes have delighted audiences across the world, in person and via broadcast.

Hundreds of his articles have appeared in scholarly journals, political periodicals, and popular magazines and newspapers. Michael Parenti is author of more than 20 books on the power of media, political elites, the wealthy, and US imperialism. His writings have been translated into 17 languages and include:

  • Profit Pathologies and Other Indecencies
  • The Face of Imperialism, and
  • To Kill a Nation, The Attack on Yugoslavia

His 2003 history The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome received a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize. Kirkus Reviews calls it “savagely entertaining ... history at its most provocative.”

Way back in 2003, the Parkland Institute in cooperation with the University of Alberta Students’ Union Revolutionary Speakers Series hosted Dr. Michael Parenti at the Myer Horowitz Theatre. He joined me at CJSR studios for conversation about:

  • The reasons why establishment historians have hidden the full story of Julius Caesar for more than 2000 years
  • Who the Roman population really were, regardless of the slurs cast by elite historians
  • The pro-democracy struggle of ancient Romans against the elitists who assassinated Caesar and those who provided ideological cover for it such as Cicero and Cato, and
  • The striking parallels between the political crisis of ancient Rome and the modern United States

 

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Dec 8, 2015

Janine Jackson is the program director of FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, which produces the nationally-syndicated weekly radio show CounterSpin that uncovers bias in US corporate journalism.

Her articles have appeared in sources such as In These Times, and she frequently contributes articles on media, racist coverage, and labour struggle to FAIR’s magazine Extra! She’s also testified before a US Senate subcommittee that funds the American network PBS.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Jackson discusses:

  • How FAIR and CounterSpin pick the stories to investigate about where corporate media got it wrong or didn’t get it at all
  • Why the people at FAIR and CounterSpin object to being called “journalists”
  • The reasons why US media stopped reporting about the US bomber who killed Canadian troops
  • Why corporate news censors itself
  • How US corporate news made the case for torture, and
  • Why right-wing cranks dominate US talk radio and whether US radio progressives need to change their game

We spoke at the offices of FAIR in Manhattan in the summer of 2002, for an episode of my old radio show The Terrordome that ran on CJSR FM88 the following October.

A few notes: in the second half of the episode I refer to peace-keeping forces, but while asking about Canadian soldiers during Canada’s war against Afghanistan. They and the occupation troops that followed were definitely not peace-keepers on a mission, but soldiers at war.

Also, I refer to TV host Bill Maher as having lost his career. Back in 2001, Maher lost his show for disputing George W. Bush’s characterisation of the 9-11 hijackers as “cowardly,” because in Maher’s estimation, no matter how evil the attack was, a suicide bombing, unlike launching cruise missiles from more than 3000 km away, was not cowardly. Maher, of course, got another TV show, moved further right, and has enjoyed an endless stream of money ever since.

Finally, our discussion of torture took place two years before the revelations of systematic American torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

To hear the extensive archive of CounterSpin episodes, visit FAIR.org and click on the CounterSpin links, or search for the podcast on iTunes.

 

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To hear bonus content from my conversation with Janine Jackson, visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.

By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. Today’s bonus content includes Janine Jackson discussing:

  • Michael Moore and Jim Hightower
  • Right-wing TV hosts Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, and why CounterSpin hosts seemed to take particular delight in exposing the inanities of right wing 20/20 reporter Jon Stossel
  • The effects of identity politics on left journalism years before the popularization of the term “intersectionality”
  • The revolutionary political potential of labour-owned media on the scale of a national newspaper or network
Nov 30, 2015

Tariq Ali is an internationally renowned radical activist, author, and atheist. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Ali lived in exile since the 1960s in opposition to Pakistan’s then-military dictatorship. A novelist, Ali has published four books of his “Islamic Quintet" which portray Islamic civilisation counter to Western orthodoxy, and the first two volumes in his "Fall of Communism" trilogy. He’s also written for the stage and the screen.

A longtime editor at the New Left Review, Tariq Ali has written and edited numerous books on history and politics including the classic The New Revolutionaries, The Clash of Fundamentalisms which investigates US power and its role in the creation of global terrorism, Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope, and his recent book, The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad, available from Verso.

In our conversation, he discusses, among many topics:

  • Why US liberals back Barack Obama’s agenda for global war
  • The US-China rivalry across the African continent
  • What would likely have resulted from what then seemed nearly inevitable: an American war against Iran
  • The complexities of the Western destruction of Libya and the re-demonisation of Qadhdhaafi

Many thanks to the International Centre at the University of Alberta for arranging the interview. Ali spoke with me in the lobby of the Hotel MacDonald on January 29, 2012. Note that Ali spoke with me a full year before the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

 

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To hear the patrons-only extended edition of my conversation with Tariq Ali, visit Patreon to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.

By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes Tariq Ali discussing:

  • The shocking violence of Evo Morale’s government in Bolivia against indigenous protestors
  • The depth of the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela and elsewhere, and
  • Tariq Ali’s own political convictions over the decades.
Nov 27, 2015

Amy Goodman has hosted Democracy Now! since 1995. It’s heard and now watched across the world on the web, and broadcast from over 1200 stations. Harvard graduate Goodman first received widespread attention for her work while she was covering the Indonesian army’s mass-killing of Timorese demonstrators.

Increasingly since 1995 she and Democracy Now! have been at the forefront of American progressive reporting on war, peace, and social justice issues that corporate news cannot or will not cover. Amy Goodman is the author of four books including Breaking the Sound Barrier, an anthology of her columns. She’s won numerous awards, including the Right Livelihood Award, often called the Alternative Nobel Prize.

This episode’s conversation is from the archives of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep in Edmonton. Amy Goodman spoke with me by telephone on February 17, 2011, a mere 15 days after the Canadian magazine Adbusters called on pro-democracy activists to occupy Wall Street, more than a year before the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, and two years before the seemingly unstoppable rise of DAESH or ISIL.

We discussed:

Democracy Now’s pioneering use of then-new file-sharing hacks back in 2003 to smuggle footage out of US-occupied Iraq, and their workarounds to get news out of Egypt during the kill-switch blackout of the anti-Mubarak uprising

The relationship between the Egypt Revolt and the occupation of Palestine

The scam of so-called “foreign aid” that instead of helping poor people overseas is actually corporate welfare feeding the super-rich at home

How and why Democracy Now! is available to more people than is MSNBC

Her commentary during the Egyptian Revolt as to its nature, aims, and likely results, and why she chose to call the ouster a revolution, and

Whether major change to the United States will come from progressives, or from fascists

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Nov 17, 2015

Even today, Hollywood’s Pink-Washing produces Whitesupremacist revisionism of African civilisations through work such as The Gods of Egypt, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and the HBO series Rome whose second season visits Greek-occupied Egypt.

Fortunately, numerous scholars and activists have dedicated their lives to erasing such lies and restoring the truth about the Africanity of world-shaping ancient civilisations such as Ancient Egypt.

One such scholar-activist is Runoko Rashidi, an historian and world traveler who for decades has investigated the ancient migrations of Africans out of the mother continent and across the world. His work highlights the civilisations they founded and the titans they produced, especially in early Asia and Europe. He’s lectured in over 50 countries, and his articles have appeared in more than 75 publications.

Rashidi is the author of the books Introduction to the Study of African Classical Civilizations, The Global African Community: The African Presence in Asia, Australia and the South Pacific, and A Thousand Year History of the African Presence in Asia. With Ivan Van Sertima he co-edited The African Presence in Early Asia. For years he hosted educational tours of archeological sites.

In today’s episode, Rashidi discusses:

  • The influence on him of the great scholar Ivan Van Sertima, author of They Came Before Columbus
  • The Dalit nation, or so-called “Untouchables” of India
  • His appraisal of the how the weakest links in the Afrocentric academic movement are mirroring the mistakes of Eurocentric scholarship
  • The contemporary scholars whose work he admires
  • Continent-shaking Africans in European and Asian history, and
  • The astonishing ancient Indian civilisations of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro

This episode’s conversation is one of the last interviews I recorded for my CJSR show Africentric Radio. Until now, it’s been entombed in the archives of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep—so I’m delighted to bring it forth by day for you. Runoko Rashidi spoke with me by telephone from his home in Los Angeles on February 26, 2012.

I began as I often do by asking him to talk about his favourite teacher. His response is powerfully introspective, revealing, and refreshingly honest.

 

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Nov 11, 2015

Across the world, modern peoples look towards the great civilisations of antiquity of their continent for answers about who they are now, and from what greatness they have arisen. East Asians gaze toward China; indigenous Americans recall the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, and Inca; Europeans remember Greece and Rome... and Africans remember Nubia and Egypt.

Yet despite the obvious Africanity of Egypt, for more than two hundred years, Europe has taught an imperial racist mythology that erased who the Egyptians truly were, and thanks to Hollywood, has pinkwashed them into Europeans, a depiction never created by any ancient Egyptian painter or sculptor.

To re-establish Egypt, or Kemet, literally, the Black Land, as an African society and civilisation populated and led by racial Africans is a complex task, due to the crushing weight of more than two centuries of racial brainwashing. Doing so requires a multidisciplinary approach engaging Archeo-Linguistics, Philosophy, Comparative Religion, Physical and Cultural Anthropology, and blood-type analysis, to name only a few.

Few scholars were better suited to such labour than the late Dr. Martin Bernal, author of the monumental series Black Athena: The Afro-Asiatic Roots of Classical Civilisation.

A maverick academic and historical investigator, Dr. Bernal employed thousands of modern and ancient documents, and addressed innumerable cultural, philosophical, scholarly, and scientific issues in order to re-establish what the Greeks and other ancient Europeans said: that the Egyptians were dark-skinned Africans whose vast genius formed the basis of Greek religion, philosophy, art, architecture, mathematics, science, and civilisation.

Bernal was a professor of Government at Cornell University. His career began in Chinese studies, but grew into the tradition of groundbreaking African scholars such as George G.M. James, St. Clair Drake, and Cheikh Anta Diop. While Bernal is primarily interested in understanding Greece so as to understand Europe, his work in clarifying the Egyptian influence on Greece has required him to establish Egypt’s Africanity.

I had the privilege of interviewing Martin Bernal in person way back in November 2000 in Edmonton, when he spoke at Edmonton Public Library Stanley Milner Branch. He was the guest of the Living History Project of which I was a member, a committee of the Council of Canadians of African & Caribbean Heritage.

He discusses:

  • Why the ground-breaking Senegalese Egyptologist Cheikh Anta Diop, author of The African Origin of Civilisation, didn’t receive more credit in Black Athena
  • His surprising turn-around on Diop’s linguistic analysis connecting Senegal to Ancient Egypt
  • How Ancient Egyptian language connects with southern African Bantu languages, and West African languages such as Hausa
  • The preservation by Freemasonry of knowledge connecting Greece as a student to Egypt as a master
  • Plato as the student of African-Egyptian ideology
  • His reactions to claims that Ancient Egyptians were incapable of developing philosophy, and the claim that philosophy and rational thought are exclusively Greek inventions, and
  • His bold assertion of the link between philosophy and mummification

 

For more information on Martin Bernal and his work, visit mfgalaxy.org for the links. Martin Bernal died on June 9, 2013. He was a delightful man, and a brilliant scholar. I’ll always be grateful for his time.

To hear the 90-minute-long patrons-only BONUS CONTENT EDITION of my conversation with Martin Bernal, click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.

By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes Martin Bernal discussing:

  • His responses to the anti-Afrocentric work of Mary Lefkowitz, author of Not Out of Africa
  • The reasons why Eurocentric scholars faked data through infamous hoaxes as the Piltdown Man fossil
  • The degree to which the Eurocentric academic establishment in the US accepts the Africanity of Ancient Egyptian people and civilisation
  • The continuing blight of Eurocentric racism on US culture
  • The Eurocentric Aryanisation of Christianity
  • The European cult of Black Madonnas, and the backlash one student faced for wanting to study them
  • The anti-African nature of Stargate and Erik Von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods, and
  • The Eurocentric fantasy of Classical Zimbabwe being the product of Phoenicians

COMING IN DECEMBER, don’t miss the serialized AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS of my cult-classic novels THE COYOTE KINGS and my award-winning SHRINKING THE HEROES, available exclusively on PATREON!

 

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Nov 3, 2015

The next time you feel like starting a blood feud, go to a Classics lecture on any American campus or to any American publishing house and say the following: “Egypt was a racially African civilisation. And it conquered and civilised Greece.”

As amply demonstrated by the growth industry in anti-Afrocentric publishing, North America’s racially-poisoned debates about nearly everything have made the discussion of the racial identity of a people from six thousand years ago almost as vicious as the fight in Syria right now.

Why the controversy? Because of what Martin Bernal, author of Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilisation, described as the contest between the Ancient Model and the Aryan model of ancient Greece and Egypt. The ancient Greeks made it clear that Egypt was their instructor and inspiration for nearly all the aspects of their civilisation; Europe believed this ancient testimony up until the age of imperialism. At that point it became morally and intellectually unfeasible to consider that those who were becoming the victims of the European Holocaust against Africa and the growing White world supremacy could be the grandfathers of European civilisation itself. The racism necessary to justify that conquest was never defeated, not even after the Nazis were, who were inspired by the same racist historical revisionism.

Enter Richard Poe, author of the controversial Black Spark, White Fire: Did African Explorers Civilise Ancient Europe?, a book whose trials of publication are almost as stunning as its revelations about the ancient world.

So, Poe must be an angry African writer with an Afrocentric spear to sharpen, right? The kind who wants nothing more than to smear and destroy the European canon? Hardly. Poe is an award-winning, pro-gun, pro-capitalism, right-wing American journalist, part Russian-Jewish, part Mexican, and best-selling author. So any notion that Poe is pandering to Black radicalism couldn’t be further from the truth. So is the idea that Poe cynically wrote the book to cash in on the Afrocentric movement.

In fact, Poe had a hell of a fight to get his book in print. White editors and publishers he approached either didn’t want a White writer to write the book, or didn’t want the book written at all. Some were upset of baffled by the notion of a African Egypt; one made bizarre reference to her fear that her mother might be mugged by Black criminals--as if this were relevant to an ancient civilisation thousands of kilometres away.

Some academics didn’t want to touch the issue--as Poe makes clear, established academics are sometimes professionally and personally vicious enough to young mavericks to destroy their careers; perhaps only a journalist, argues Poe, has the freedom to write such a book.

Some freedom--Poe ended up forking over $30,000 US of his own money to get the book researched, including the creation of artwork to display the forensic reconstruction of the face of an ancient Egyptian skull. And perhaps if famed Afrocentrist* professor, Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, head of Temple University’s African Studies Department, hadn’t written the introduction to this book, few Africans in the US might have taken the book seriously.

Neither White liberal nor Black radical, Poe is also unlike many Afrocentric Egyptologists in that he doesn’t regard the Greeks as mere historical plagiarists of greater, more ancient Egyptian genius. He is concerned neither with racial solidarity nor a political-academic agenda--his sole concern seems to be the truth, hence his sacrifices.

Highly accessible and jargon-free, Richard Poe’s Black Spark, White Fire is a dazzling voyage through the genealogy of human civilisation with forays into race, mysticism, science, philosophy, culture, and technology that one needn’t be a specialist or a classicist in order to follow.

I went far below the pharaoh’s chamber in the Grand Lodge of Imhotep archives for today’s conversation. Richard Poe spoke with me by telephone way back in April, 2000. He discussed:

  • His reactions to the attacks against Afrocentric historiography by people such as Mary Lefkowitz, author of Not Out of Africa
  • The relevance of the classic text Stolen Legacy by George G.M. James, and
  • Why there’s a pyramid on Greek soil, whom the ancient Greeks say is responsible for building it, and why most of us have never heard of it.

We began by discussing the eternal relevance of history.

*Molefi Kete Asante is the author of the classic book Afrocentricity. Many who identify with his work and ideology are called Afrocentrists. Critics of their inquiry mislabel the movement as Afrocentrism. Any use in this blog entry of the prefix “Afro-” refers to Asante’s work or his movement. I use the term “Africentric” simply to mean “centered on Africa and from an African perspective.

To hear the hour-long, patrons-only extended edition of my conversation with Richard Poe, visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.

By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes Richard Poe discussing:

  • The Egyptian pharaohs named Senwosret who had a huge impact on Ancient Europe
  • The African colonists of Egyptian descent who settled around the Black Sea in ancient times
  • His take on the work of Martin Bernal, author of Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilisation
  • A forensic reconstruction of a high-ranking Ancient Egyptian named Natsef-Amun that casts light on his race
  • The extreme and often emotional resistance of Eurocentric academics to acknowledging the Africanity of Ancient Egypt’s population
  • The Afroasiatic language family that includes Ancient Egyptian, Ethiopian languages, and Hebrew and Arabic
  • The extensive cultural similarities between Ancient Egypt and other African civilisations
  • The publicity freeze-out against Black Spark, White Fire, and
  • The reaction of the Oprah Book Club against the book

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Oct 26, 2015

While comic books pay creators nowhere near what most professionals get in movies, television, or video games, countless comic books fans yearn to be creators and spend years honing their skills, creating characters and stories, and sometimes even publishing entire works online or in print.

For a determined, highly-skilled, and lucky few, the result is getting hired by the major publishers or long-term success as an independent backed by crowdfunding, great sales, or both.

To stay determined and rack up skills, one needs a strategy, and that’s where our guests come in, who comment on how to do the job, and how to get the job.

Matt Hawkins, president and chief operating officer at Top Cow productions, discusses:

  • The must-own books on how to create comics art
  • How to take feedback
  • The need to go to conventions
  • Why you need to have an online portfolio
  • How not to talk about colleagues
  • How to improve your art skills
  • The personal demands of the job
  • The etiquette for contacting editors, and
  • The art of the pitch

Dani Dixon, a creator and publisher at Tumble Creek Press, discusses:

  • The importance of listening to editorial restrictions when submitting your work
  • The risk of keeping not-safe-for-work content in your online portfolio, and
  • The need to pick a social media platform that represents your professional interests the best

Ray Anthony Height, creator of Midnight Tiger, discusses:

  • What it takes to stay in the business
  • The need to continue learning
  • The paramount significance of deadlines, and
  • The three things you need to know to succeed in comics

Mark and Mike Davis, also known as the Madtwiinz, are the creators of Blokhedz, a four-issue indie comic limited series from 2004 and its 2009 companion webisode series that includes voicing by Talib Kweli and Dorian Harewood. They’ve gone on to freelance for Sony, Fox, and Disney, and have worked on The Boondocks, Black Dynamite, and GI Joe.
They discuss how they co-created Blokhedz.

All of this episode’s guests spoke on a panel at Eagle Con in May, 2015 at California State University at Los Angeles, except for the Davis Brothers, who spoke with me at San Diego Comic Con in July 2004.

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Oct 19, 2015

Chuck D. is the leader of Public Enemy, one of the contemporary music’s most influential acts, and creator of two of hip hop’s most powerful albums: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back from 1988, and Fear of a Black Planet from 1990.

Born in 1960 in Long Island, New York, Chuck D. attended Adelphi University where he contributed poster artwork to the growing hip hop scene, and where he hosted a hip hop radio show on WBAU.

Forming Public Enemy with collaborators Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, DJ Terminator X, and the martial artists the Security of the First World, Chuck D. led a bold new aesthetic into hip hop, combining the look and messages of the Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam.

The group enjoyed enormous success and weathered enormous controversy, creating classic anthems such as 1989’s “Fight the Power” and 2004’s “Son of a Bush.” Chuck D. became a pioneer of digital music distribution, launching SlamJamz and HipHopGods to help artists free themselves from corporate control, bad contracts, and terrible pay.

Just as Public Enemy has toured widely and performed thousands of concerts, Chuck D. lectures widely at universities around the world. He was also a guest on my CJSR FM Edmonton radio show The Terrordome in 1999 and in 2005. The last time Public Enemy came to the Big E was 2010, and that’s when I caught up with Chuck D, at the Edmonton Event Centre, which was the exact place I’d met to interview him in 1999. He discussed:

 

  • Female music producers in hip hop
  • His reactions to the frantic cliché “hip hop is dead”
  • His thoughts on the arrest of African-American one-percenter Henry Louis “Skip” Gates who was also the head of African American studies at Harvard, and the degrading content of Gates’s series The Wonders of the African World
  • His perspective on reparations for the descendants of the prisoners of the centuries-long, continent-wide American rape gulag
  • His reactions to the HBO series The Wire and to the comments of one Wire writer who claimed that middle-class African-Americans face no racist barriers to their quality of life or advancement
  • His thoughts on the education of African children and teens and US President Barack Obama
  • The differences between Canadians and Americans
  • His comments about his wife and daughters and thoughts on the problems facing teens
  • The personal and political reasons why Public Enemy let Arrested Development create the anthem for Spike Lee’s 1992 feature Malcolm X, instead of doing it themselves
  • Whether PE will eventually make a Malcolm X tribute song, and why Malcolm X would not have existed without Montreal
  • One of Chuck D.’s favourites writers and favourite books, and
  • His thoughts on the then-recent death of Gang Starr’s legendary MC Guru

Note that you’ll hear a strange jump in the ambient noise after the first set of questions. That’s because we conducted the interview at two different times: in the afternoon before the concert, and then an hour before Chuck D. was to hit the stage.

We began by discussing how his then-new music portals She Movement and Hip Hop Gods innovated upon the work he began with SlamJamz.

 

To hear the ONE HOUR LONG patrons-only extended edition of my conversation with Chuck D. of Public Enemy, click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.

By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes a further interview with Chuck D. and with the legendary Public Enemy S1W Pop Diesel.

Chuck D discusses:

  • Whether Public Enemy’s pan-Africanism includes working with continental African musicians
  • How US President Barack Obama functioned as a weapon of mass distraction
  • The challenges and rewards of Paris’s unprecedented artistic collaboration with Public Enemy on the 2006 album Rebirth of a Nation
  • Professor Griff’s phenomenal production work on PE singles “Son of a Bush” and “Revolution”
  • Chuck D.’s perspective on his leadership in digital distribution and his rationale for the “micro-niching” of SheMovement.com and HipHopGods.rapstation.com, and
  • His thoughts on his friend Bono editing the “Africa” issue of The Globe & Mail and racism in Canada

 

S1W Pop Diesel discusses:

  • The history of the S1Ws and their origins with the Fruit of Islam, the security force of the Nation of Islam, and the organization called Unity Force, and the leadership of the S1Ws under Professor Griff
  • His own martial arts relationship with Griff
  • Pop Diesel’s non-PE career in his company First World Security, and how their force provides safety in dangerous areas of Baltimore and other areas without its staff being armed
  • His thoughts on whether the Baltimore-set TV series The Wire is excellent, or exploitative
  • His most profound experiences during his more than two-decade career with Public Enemy
  • His cultural experience of learning and mastering martial arts before the era of UFC, and
  • His own strategy for a healthy mind and body
Oct 12, 2015

Dr. Ganz Ferrance is a psychologist specialising in human potential, and family and marriage therapy.

Over my decades of radio broadcasting and now podcasting, I’ve spoken with scores of people about the structural and systemic barriers to the freedom, prosperity, and happiness of Africans and other groups.

On this episode of MF GALAXY we’ll hear about another set of barriers, which, while being influenced by the structural and the systemic, are a distinct problem unto themselves. They’re also usually more difficult to perceive and define. I’m talking about psychological barriers inside the human community generally and African-Canadian communities specifically, barriers which have been passed intergenerationally and are the legacy of the horrors of colonialism across the African continent, and of the continent-wide rape-gulag in the US and in the Caribbean.

Ganz Ferrance is ideally suited to discuss these intergenerational barriers to our individual and collective health and success, and the means to overcome them. He’s been teaching mind-body health for over two decades in Canada and the United States. He holds a Ph.D. in Counselling Psychology from Andrews University in Michigan and an MA in Educational and Developmental Psychology.

He’s also an increasingly well-known media figure, having appeared on CBC Radio, CHED Radio, CTV Edmonton and CTV’s Good Morning Canada, ByuRadio, Canadian Learning Television, and Sirius XM, and in the pages of P&G Every Day, Our Weekly, and Ebony Magazine.

In this episode of MF GALAXY, Ganz Ferrance discusses:

  • What Eurocentric psychology misses about the profound, cumulative, psychological impacts of the lifelong experience of enduring racism
  • The significance of what sociologists call “stereotype threat”
  • How people in societies that are free on paper but racist in reality can achieve strong mental health
  • How “purpose tremor” relates to the well-intentioned but counter-productive messages that African parents give their children
  • The danger of waiting for saviours
  • The effects of the competing values of community versus the individual, and
  • Whether African celebrities have an obligation to Africans across the world

Today’s show comes from deep inside the archives of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. Ganz Ferrance spoke with me at his office in Edmonton in September, 2008.

 

To hear the exclusive patrons-only extended edition of my conversation with Ganz Ferrance, click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.

By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes Dr. Ganz Ferrance discussing:

  • The benefits of chess, horse-riding, golf, and other non-stereotypically African activities for African-Canadian families
  • The fluidity of racial stereotypes and how they limit people’s futures
  • The “racial solidarity” reasons why some people defend corporal punishment, and
  • How people can change from focusing on defeat to focusing on victory

To contact Dr. Ganz Ferrance, book him for counselling or a speaking engagement, attend his classes, or to purchase his CDs and DVDs, visit doctorganz.com.
 

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Oct 5, 2015

Charlie Kernaghan is the executive director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, a Pittsburgh-based NGO of global labour advocates. They risk their own safety in pursuit of justice for some of the most exploited workers in the world through exposing human and labour rights abuses perpetrated by US companies producing goods in poor countries.

Kernaghan has made his living as furniture mover, carpenter, cab driver, and university instructor, but he began his crusade for workers’ rights in 1985 after participating in a peace march through Central America. In 1990, he became the director of the US-based National Labor Committee, the fore-runner to the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights.

Kernaghan’s international fame came from rattling the chains of one particular celebrity: Kathie Lee Gifford of Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. Gifford’s name was on a line of clothing from whose profits a portion of proceeds was used to aid disadvantaged American children. The problem? The clothes were made in Honduran sweatshops. By thirteen year-old girls working thirteen-hour shifts for 31 cents an hour. Under armed guard.

After Kernaghan broke that story, Gifford broke into tears on North American television, and she threatened to sue him and the tiny NLC. Her threats crumbled into defeat when she was eventually forced to sign a code of conduct that included independent monitoring, a story detailed in the Canadian documentary The Corporation (http://www.thecorporation.com).

Being known as “the man who made Kathie Lee cry” is enough to endear Kernaghan to many; he’s been written up in Mother Jones magazine, been featured on David Barsamian’s Alternative Radio and gives somewhere around seventy speeches a year while he and the Institute maximise their pressure against plutocrats such as the owners of Wal-Mart and the NBA to ensure justice for the people who make the the products that elevate them to the global top 1% inside the global 1%.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Charlie Kernaghan discusses:

  • The typical, miserable working and living conditions for the 35 million women and girls in 2004 who sewed the clothes of the world in sweatshops
  • His reaction to the much-repeated lie that transnational sweatshops are improving the quality of life wherever they go
  • His advice on how to make your Christmas or year-round shopping less globally exploitative and more just
  • What’s far more powerful than mere individual consumer choice on the path to global labour justice, and
  • The strategic and moral value of boycotting companies versus boycotting entire countries

Today’s conversation is from sub-level ten inside the archives of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. Way back during the Christmas shopping rush of December 2004, Charlie Kernaghan spoke with me from his office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by telephone. Please note that back then, his organisation was called the National Labour Committee.

I began by asking Kernaghan about the amount of money US consumers spend on others and themselves to purchase their Christmas cheer, and how little reward would go to the people who actually produced those gifts.

 

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Sep 28, 2015

Ann Vriend is a superb, independent songwriter-musician who’s toured the world and has created six albums including her most recent and critically-acclaimed release, For the People in the Mean Time. Her vocals are a fusion of Dolly Parton and Aretha Franklin, and her lyrical skill is a standout for her generation. She’s the winner of the 2013 Canadian “She’s the One” contest.

In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Ann Vriend discusses:

  • Her approach to the craft of songwriting, including the work of editing
  • The influence of Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen
  • The importance of endless effort and the ten thousand hour rule
  • Why pastry chefs don’t want you to eat the dough
  • Being true to one’s artistic vision, and
  • The true meaning of limitations

Throughout the show we’ll hear excerpts from the album For the People in the Mean Time, specifically “A Long Road,” “A Need So Wide,” “The Greatest Killer,” and “Wonder Why.”

I spoke with Ann Vriend in her home in the McCauley neighbourhood of Edmonton on September 20, 2015. You’ll hear ambient noise throughout our conversation, including at one point a dishwasher running, so I apologise for the below-average sound-quality of this episode. And now on MF Galaxy, my conversation with Ann Vriend.

Buy Ann Vriend’s singles and albums:

www.annvriend.com/music.html

To hear the full 80 minute, patrons-only extended edition of my conversation with Ann Vriend, visit the MF GALAXY Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week. By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes Ann Vriend discussing:

  • Business advice for musicians, including how to manage enthusiastic fans
  • The need for business education for musicians
  • The influence of learning French on her personal development
  • The effect on her outlook and songwriting of living in Edmonton’s McCauley neighbourhood,
  • Her reaction to her conservative upbringing, and her thoughts on art versus propaganda, and
  • The global African songwriters and novelists who’ve had the most powerful impact on her.
  • You’ll also hear an excerpt from her song, “Those Records.”

 

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Sep 21, 2015

Yves Engler is the author of eight books exploring injustice, Canadian-style. His latest is Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation. The book explores Canadian and proto-Canadian involvement in the European holocaust against Africa, support for apartheid in South Africa and Idi Amin’s coup in Uganda, support for overthrowing independence leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Patrice Lumumba of Congo, and destructive corporate exploitation across the continent today.

Yves Engler will be speaking at the University of Alberta in Edmonton on October 1st at 7 pm in room 158 of the Education South building (113 Street + 87 Avenue). In advance his talk, he spoke with me by Skype from his home in Montreal on September 15, 2015. Our conversation covered numerous topics including:

  • The exploitative and destructive role of Canada as a global mining superpower, especially across the African continent
  • The appropriate role, from Engler’s perspective, of natural resource development
  • The Canadian government’s manipulative domestic reasons to fund NGOs
  • What mining would look like in Canada if foreigners did to us what our companies do to them
  • Engler’s take on the “trade versus aid” debate, and
  • The twin sinister purposes of what people call “foreign aid.”

To put foreign aid into context, here are political representatives of Canada’s most important political, economic, and military ally. As quoted by Carol Off in her book Bitter Chocolate, US Senator Hubert Humphrey said:

"I have heard that people may become dependent on us for food.... If you are looking for a way to get people to lean on you and to be dependent on you, in terms of their cooperation with you, it seems to me that food dependence would be terrific."

US President John Kennedy said, “Foreign aid is a method by which the United States maintains a position of influence and control around the world.”

And US President Richard Nixon said, “Let us remember that the main purpose of aid is not to help other nations but to help ourselves.”

I’ll let Yves Engler explore how far from—or how close to—Canada is to those declarations of policy and morality.

We began by discussing the enormous political value of one Canada’s biggest lies about itself.

SPECIAL ONE-HOUR LONG EXTENDED EDITION BONUS CONTENT

To hear the nearly-hour-long, patrons-only extended edition of my conversation with Yves Engler, click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week. By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show, plus video excerpts from selected interviews as they become available. This extended edition includes Engler discussing:

  • The truth about Canadian backing of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his role in the Rwandan genocide
  • Canadian General Romeo D’Allaire’s connection to Kagame’s RPF or Rwandan Patriotic Front, and
  • The illegal Canadian war of aggression to destroy Libya, in the face multiple attempts by the African Union to broker peace, and in explicit violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions 1970 + 1973.
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Sep 14, 2015

DeWayne Copeland is a new-media indie filmmaker who embodies the Marcus Garvey ethic of “do for self.” With co-creator and series writer-director Scott F Evans, Copeland and their agile team launched CV Nationin 2012, and have produced a first season of six episodes and a second season of four.

The CV in CV Nation means “costumed vigilantes,” because the show is about superheroes and villains fighting for dominance in a world in which paranormal powers are merely expensive but highly dangerous commodities.

The series is a breakthrough not only for its indie aesthetics and production, but because it’s largely about superheroes and villains of African descent. Copeland and Evans didn’t wait around for someone else to do what they and so many others had been craving for years—they just did it themselves.

DeWayne Copeland is a remarkable artist, and a down-to-earth human being. He’s a key speaker in the must-see documentary Brave New Soulsby Agent Carter screenwriter Brandon Easton. I met DeWayne Copeland at Eagle Con in May 2015 held at the campus of California State University at Los Angeles. We spoke at the Con’s final moments during the tear-down, so throughout you’ll hear the sounds of lifting, loading, and even lurching.

Our conversation ranged over many topics, including:

  • How to recruit skilled artists and technicians to collaborate on indie New Media projects
  • The Africentric impulse that got him moving on CV Nation
  • How he and co-creator Scott Evans found the money to make the seriesWhy they’re forbidden to sell DVDs of CV Nation
  • His long-term artistic and financial objectives as a filmmaker, and
  • His most exciting experience in making the show

But we began by discussing Copeland’s own personal origin story.

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Sep 7, 2015

A Lee Martinez has authored of ten acclaimed novels including Divine Misfortune, Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest,and Chasing the Moon. For his debut novel Gil’s All Fright Diner, he won the Alex Award, which is given to adult fiction that possesses special appeal to younger readers.

 

Martinez’s work mixes dynamic world-building with whimsical, hilarious, and touching storytelling. Martinez’s The Automatic Detectiveis one of my favourite books. It’s a noir crime thriller about a robot designed to destroy humanity, but he just doesn’t feel like it, so he drives a cab. But the work succeeds because it’s far more than just wacky—it’s got heart, and characters we can love.

 

In this episode of MF GALAXY, Martinez discusses:

 

  • The reasons why so many fans and teachers of so-called literary fictiondismiss the importance of plot
  • His approach to characterisationon the invention versus reflection spectrum
  • The skillset required for effective revision, and the dangers of excessive revision
  • What it’s like working with an editor
  • The Dallas Fortworth writers’ workshop he frequents and why he does
  • His approach to wordplay and literary style, including the creation of dialogue, and
  • The art of world-buildingvs. the excesses of “world-porn,”and the world-building approach Martinez used in the robot-noir novel The Automatic Detective

 

We began by discussing the craft of plotting and the dangers of hewing too closely to an outline.

 

To download the special PATRONS-ONLY edition of this episode with A Lee Martinez, visit MF GALAXY.org and click the Patreon link on the right. Sponsor the show for a dollar or more per episode and access all extended edition podcasts and bonus videos. In this extended episode, Martinez discusses his business advice for writers, and the real reason to attend book signings.

 

 

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Aug 31, 2015

Ahmed Knowmadicis an award-winning performance poetwho—unlike most writers and performers—has been earning his living through his craft for the last three years by entertaining and enlightening people around the planet.

He’s performed for audiences in the thousands, and in March 2015 the British Council and the Norwich Writer Centre invited him to represent Canada during the International Literature Network conference.

Born in Mogadishu, Somali, in 1984, Ahmed migrated with his three older brothers and his mother to Italy during the collapse of the Somali state. Finding Italy inhospitable to his culture and religion, Ahmed and his family moved again—this time, to Canada.

After a troubled stint in Ontario and an even more troubling trip back to Somalia, he returned to Canada to study theatre and comedy writing, and even performed for Second Cityand various open mic nights in Toronto.

Finally settling in the Big Ein 2008, Ahmed integrated himself into the city’s poetry scene and brought all his life and artistic experience—including comedy—to his writing and performances. Joining with a group of like-minded young performance poets, together they founded the Breath in Poetry Collectivewhich not only performs poetry, but provides artistic and even business mentorship.

In 2011, Ahmed became the spoken word champion at the nation-wide Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, and won the RISE awardfor community involvement in arts and culture. In 2013 he was Artist in Residence at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in Seattle. He continues to excite and magnify E-Town’s poetry scene including by working with young people at conferences, in schools, and through various community organizations.

I recorded this episode’s conversation with Ahmed Knowmadic in October 2014 at Authorpalooza, a live talk-show author series I ran while I was writer in residence for the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta.

You’ll hear Ahmed perform his poem “Ignorance Infomercial,”and explain how other people’s rudeness forced him to make his text and performances as dynamic and engaging as possible. He’ll also discuss his experiences engaging the people of the Somali diaspora, including traditional elders and the delegates to a massive conference in the Somali capitol of North America.Finally, he’ll present his own advice for new poets, tell what drives him crazy about slam poetry, and reveal the danger of trying to please the audience. He begins by performing one of his most famous poems, “I Am Africa.”

To get all the bonus content, download the special EXTENDED EDITION of MF GALAXY, including a performance of one of Ahmed Knowmadic’s most powerful poems and an additional, never-before-aired interview, and the video of that interview! To download this extended edition of MF GALAXY, simply become a sponsor of the show for a dollar or more per episode.

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Aug 24, 2015

The Canadian feature The Corporationis one of the most acclaimed and electrifying documentaries in recent memory, which examines corporations as one of the most dangerous institutions on the planet.

Beginning with the legal principle in the United States and Canada that corporations are “persons,” the documentary then asks the question, “If they are persons, what kind of persons are they?”

According to the fourth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association, corporations as persons meet the definition of psychopaths, that is, people unable to experience remorse.

Such a psychological defect turns such individuals into parasites and predators. A smaller number of them become killers. While the word psychopath and its one-time synonym sociopath have been replaced by the wordy phrase “Anti-Social Personality Disorder,”the meaning remains the same, and as the documentary explores, a potent and revealing way to explain and predict corporate behaviour, and perhaps to curtail and punish it.

In March 2004, Jennifer Abbott, one of The Corporation documentary’s directors, came to Edmonton to unveil her film which features interviews with major figures such as political analyst Noam Chomsky, documentarian Michael Moore, economist Milton Friedman, CEO Ray Anderson, journalist Naomi Klein, labour crusader Charlie Kernaghan, and commodities trader Carlton Brown, each of whom defends or attacks corporations.

During our conversation, we spoke of many of the film’s most dramatic moments, including the sequence depicting the attempt by the transnational corporation Bechtel to privatize the water supply of an entire country—including by making illegal the collection of rain water—and the inspiring revolt against that attack on national sovereignty and natural rights.

One aspect of the conversation you may find jarring is our eleven-year-old perspective on some events such as the illegal US invasion of Iraq, or political figures such as then-Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair, then-President of the United States George W. Bush, and then-Prime Minister of Canada Paul Martin.

Throughout the show, you’ll hear clips from the documentary. Go to MFGalaxy.org to see some clips. Visit The Corporation.com to purchase a DVD of the film, and to contribute to the film-makers’ crowdfunding effort to give the film for free to one thousand schools.

To hear the special extended edition of this episode of MF GALAXY with 20 extra minutes of my conversation with Jennifer Abbott, become a patron of MF GALAXY. The more you pledge, the larger your rewards, but as little as 25 cents per week gets you access to all the extended editions of the show. Remember: You can power this podcast. So do it.

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Aug 17, 2015

That’s Rick Green, the legendary sketch comedy writer and actor and literary TV journalist. He co-founded the comedy troupe The Frantics with Dan Redican, Paul Chato, and Peter Wildman, and co-wrote and co-starred in their short-lived but superb TV show Four on the Floor. He also worked on The Red Green Show, The No Name Show, and All in Good Taste.

WhileGreen may be best known as the host of the science fiction and fantasy literary show Prisoners of Gravity and the history-media-satire History Bites, he’s received widespread acclaim for ADD & Loving It, a comedic-scientific look at Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder that The Globe & Mail called “brilliant.”

In today’s episode, I speak with Rick Green about:

  • The similarities between History Bites and The Daily Show
  • The unproduced, but fully-written second season of Four on the Floor
  • How Garry Shandling killed Four on the Floor
  • The writing approach that was responsible for producing the superb quality of Four on the Floor
  • The creative risks, and the remarkable creative success of Prisoners of Gravity, and how it helped create the Watchmen feature film, and
  • The effect he’s had on thousands of people through his documentary on ADHD

This episode’s conversation is from sublevel 19 in the archives of the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. It’s never been aired before now. I spoke with Rick Green during the Pure Spec con at the Edmonton Convention Centre on October 04, 2009.

We began by discussing the deeper purpose of History Bites. And now on MF Galaxy, my conversation with comedy legend Rick Green.

To purchase Frantics CDs and other merchandise, visit TheFrantics.com

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Aug 10, 2015

Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned environmentalist and physicist who earned her Ph.D. on “Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory” at the University of Western Ontario. She’s also a featured interviewee in the acclaimed Canadian documentary The Corporation and the author of over three hundred papers and dozens of books. She founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, which according to her website vshiva.net, “works on biodiversity conservation and protecting people's rights from threats to their livelihoods and environment.” She also founded Navdanya, an Indian movement to protect bio-diversity and life-form integrity, especially for native seeds.

Way back in 2004, Shiva spoke in Edmonton for the Revolutionary Speakers Series curated by the University of Alberta Students Union. We met outside an organic chain store in Edmonton’s historic Old Strathcona district to discuss—what else—saving the planet. She explained many things, including:

  • Why people living under corporate agriculture are “bio-serfs”
  • How the fight for traditional farming is a fight for human rights
  • The meaning of “planet rights”
    The agribusiness worst case scenario that’s already happening, and
  • How rich countries use agribusiness subsidies to destroy the agricultural viability of developing nations

Along the way, Shiva referenced Percy Schmeiser, the Saskatchewan farmer who battled agribusiness megacorp Monsanto all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and lost.

We began by discussing the how differences between North American and European cultures affect the relationship between politics and science.

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Aug 3, 2015

Lyricist, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Maria Dunn is the Edmontonian folk music creator of the acclaimed albums From Where I Stand, For a Song, We Were Good People, The Peddler, and the brilliant Piece by Piece. Those records have won her nominations for the Prairie Music Awards, Canadian Folk Music Award, and the Juno Award, Canada’s equivalent to the Grammys.

Dunn has become famous for her creation of “social art” and historically-themed music. We Were Good People examines the lives of Canadian working folk, including the history of the African-Americans who settled in Alberta and the other prairie provinces more than a hundred years ago to create the first African-Canadian towns in the West.

But of all her socially-engaged work, the most praised has been Piece by Piece. Lyrically, it’s the life stories and labour victories of immigrant women from early 20th Century Ukraine and Italy and mid-20th Century Vietnam, India, and Pakistan, and many other places and times, and how those lives the coalesce inside the GWG jeans factory in Edmonton. Musically, the factory floor of Piece by Piece is North American folk running machines assembled from Celtic strings, Indian sitar, and Ukrainian dance. The album embodies Mark Twain’s sage advice: for art to be timeless, it must never overtly teach or overtly preach, but it must covertly teach and covertly preach. The beautiful voice and music, and the tender and powerful stories of Piece by Piece make it one of the finest achievements in Canadian and indeed North American contemporary art.

Maria Dunn spoke with me in October 2014 onstage at Authorpalooza #1, part of a series of live talk-show writer events I created and hosted while I was the Writer in Residence at the University of Alberta’s Department of English and Film Studies.

She explored many topics, including:

How her artist residency with the Edmonton District Labour Council led her to create Piece by Piece as a live performance including with video accompaniment

The interviews with the women who had made the GWG plant profitable before the bosses shut it down, and how their lives created the stories of the album

The international musical influences in her own life and from the lives of the GWG workers that shaped Piece By Piece musically, including for Dunn the work of the Indo-British experimentalist Sheila Chandra

Her lyrical craft—how she sifted through a biographical garage packed with many lifetimes of keepsakes and treasures, to produce a single mailbox of unforgettable and timeless letters to convey those lives… and the advice she gives to young songwriters who need to move past endless songs of love, love loss, and lust

I began by asking her how she got involved with the project that eventually became her live performance and the album called Piece by Piece. Throughout the show, you’ll hear excerpts from several of its songs.

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Jul 27, 2015

Angela Davis: former member of the American Communist Party, former fugitive, former potential denizen of death row, and very current human rights activist. She’s far more than the photographic cliché that her iconic Afro has become. To millions, the author-intellectual Davis is a living hero from an era in which too many firebrands were extinguished all-too violently.

She was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944, and took her parents’ social justice activism to her marrow. When she was a teenager she joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. A brilliant young student, she travelled at age 16 to Germany where she studied at the Frankfurt School under the guidance of German philosopher and critical theorist Theodor Adorno. While studying at the Sorbonne in 1963, Davis received word that two of her friends had been murdered. Euro-American terrorists had butchered her friends Rosamond Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, two of four African American girl victims at the Birmingham church bombing. Davis described them as being like sisters to her.

Upon her return to the US, Davis graduated with her B.A. magna cum laude. Upon earning her Master’s Degree, Davis began teaching in California’s public university system, where she earned the wrath of then-governor Ronald Reagan for her association with the revolutionary Black Panther Party and her membership in the Communist Party; Reagan’s government attempted to have her fired. But that case of political repression disguised as employment harassment would soon prove to be the least of her problems.

Davis was linked romantically to George Jackson, author of Soledad Brother, hard-time prisoner and “Field Marshall” for the BPP. In 1970, Jonathan, Jackson’s younger brother, attempted to free his brother from a Marin County courthouse; his bungled operation led to his own death, and the deaths of three other African Americans and a Euro-American judge. Accused of having supplied weapons to Jonathan Jackson, Davis became a fugitive, and at age 26 became the third woman in US history to be placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

On the run for weeks, living in and out of safe houses until she was finally caught and imprisoned awaiting trial, Davis conducted a first-hand analysis of the interior of what she would later call the US “prison-industrial complex.” A black star on Richard Nixon’s and Ronald Reagan’s enemy list, Davis faced execution by toxic gas; having become an international cause celebre, Davis eventually won acquittal and her own freedom, but refused to walk away from the horrors she’d seen behind bars for the last (and nearly the final) sixteen months of her life.

As arguably the lead advocate for prisoner rights in the United States, Davis entered electoral politics as the US Communist Party’s vice presidential candidate in 1980 and 1984, and published books on a variety of topics, including Women, Race & Class; Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday;Abolition Democracy: Beyond Prisons, Torture, and Empire; and her classic autobiography. Today as Professor Emerita, she teaches in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, inside the very state system Reagan swore would never employ her again. She continues to lecture widely, and is a mainstay on the modern enemies-lists of American arch-conservatives.

Angela Davis spoke with me by telephone from her home in San Francisco in March 2006, prior to her appearance at the University of Alberta Students’ Union Revolutionary Speakers’ Series in Edmonton. We spoke about many topics, including:

  • The struggle to overcome racism inside the peace and social justice movement
  • The political significance of the Canadian activist Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble With Islam Today
  • The reasons for the affection by many African Americans for former US president Bill Clinton
  • Angela Davis’s early 1990s connection with rap star Ice Cube and her perspective on hip hop, including her favourite rappers
  • The archetypal, historical, literary, and political significance of the prison industrial complex, and the elimination of the prison programmes that promote rehabilitation
  • How the political value of dehumanizing prisoners reflects the political propaganda around anyone deemed to be a “terrorist”

We began by discussing solutions to the problems facing us right now. Remember that Davis spoke with me during the second term of US president George W. Bush.

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Jul 17, 2015

Brown Girl in the Ring is Nalo Hopkinson’s 1998 breakthrough novel that revitalised Africentric science fiction and fantasy. It’s the story of Ti-Jeanne, a medic and traditional healer in a near-future failed state Toronto. Ti-Jeanne can see through time, and she needs that power to survive the criminal despotism of Rudy, who runs the ruined city from his castle in the sky, the top of the CN Tower.

Ti-Jeanne comes to understand the source of her vision, as embodied in what some Caribbean people call Carnival Spirits, but are actually the gods of the Ilé Ifé religion of the Yoruba kingdom sprawling Nigeria, Togo, and Benin. Those deities dwell across the Western Hemisphere in the religions of Santeria in Cuba, Candomblé and Umbanda in Brazil, and Voudou in Haiti. That family of faiths encompasses 50 million adherents, making it larger than the combined Sikh, Jewish, and Bahá’í populations of the world.

Brown Girl in the Ring won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest and the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and it won Hopkinson the 1999 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Now Brown Girl in the Ring is coming to the screen in the form of Brown Girl in the Ring: The Prequel. That’s the indie film currently in pre-production as helmed by writer, director, and actor Sharon Lewis. Lewis may be best known to Canadians as host of CBC Newsworld’s Counter Spin, and as the mysterious DJ in Clement Virgo’s film Rude. She’s directed numerous episodes of television and the feature films Ritch, Chains, and Income Property.

But for Brown Girl in the Ring: The Prequel to get produced, it still needs money, and that’s why Lewis has turned to crowd-funding. This podcast goes live on Friday, July 17 2015. You have until tomorrow to donate through Indie Gogo. To get this movie made, visit http://browngirlinthering.ca.

In this episode, Sharon Lewis talks about her plans for the prequel she’s written and that she’ll direct, and also:

  • Hollywood’s continual neglect of coloured actors who, of course, represent the vast majority of the human race
  • Why she cares about science fiction and how she came to love it
  • The appeal of post-apocalyptic fiction, especially for coloured people
  • Sharon Lewis’s ambitious plans for expanding the Brown Girl in the Ring universe in present and future venues and media including television and video games
  • The aesthetic strategy for making movies on a micro budget, and
  • The amazing prizes you can get for supporting the crowd-funding campaign for the feature film

Sharon Lewis spoke with me by Skype from her home in Toronto on July 14, 2015. You’ll hear some noise throughout our conversation which is either someone cleaning or cats using a litter box.

Along the way we discuss the Tumblr account Every Single Word which is a web series featuring Hollywood movies edited down to only the lines spoken by coloured actors. The result is 2-hour films shortened to two minutes, or twenty seconds, or sometimes zero seconds.

 

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Jul 14, 2015

Waymatea, better known as Sista J, is the band leader, lead singer, lead lyricist, and founding member of Souljah Fyah, one of Canada’s most popular and most celebrated reggae bands. Souljah Fyah has released three albums including their self-titled debut, Truth Will Reveal, and I Wish. The band has just returned from producing an album in Jamaica that is scheduled for release early 2016.

 

Unlike most of her contemporaries in popular music, Waymatea is an accomplished song writer, weaving her albums with everything from searing anti-genocide anthems and hometown cheer-sections to spiritual hymns and tender songs of heartbreak.

 

In this episode of MF GALAXY, Waymatea discusses:

  • What poets and prose writers who want to try songwriting need to understand to find artistic success
  • Her practice of editing lyrics, and the magical mindset for creating those lyrics in the first place
  • The power of ironic contrast between lyrics and melody
  • The business of running a band, and the surprising first business move Waymatea made when she formed Souljah Fyah
  • How her professional school teaching background shaped the way she ran her band, and when and why that stopped working
  • Her unexpected advice for how millennials should promote their bands, and
  • The amazing power of early adopter super-fans

 

 

Waymatea spoke with me on December 3, 2014 by Skype from her home in LA—that’s Leduc, Alberta.

 

 

Note that throughout our conversation, Waymatea’s young daughter makes several quiet cooing remarks and sound effects. Full disclosure: Waymatea and I are good friends; we met when we were both children, and in the early 1990s we worked together in EBONY, an African-Canadian youth group. We begin with Waymatea introducing herself.

http://souljahfyah.com

 

 

Jul 6, 2015

Who’s slandering African-Americans and why? With friends like these….

 

Sociologist Algernon Austin is the author of Getting It Wrong: How Black Public Intellectuals Are Failing Black America.

If you watch or listen to the news, read magazines or popular books on current events, or perhaps simply check out movies, video games, or music videos, you’ve probably formed a number of conceptions of quality of life among Africans in the United States. Everyone knows, for instance, that teen pregnancy and out of wedlock births are increasing, violence and poverty are increasing, that post-secondary enrollment is down, high school completion and grades are down, and literacy, voting, and self-respect is down. Everybody knows all the above is true. And everybody is wrong.

Sadly, many of the people who believe the above myths are the Black public intellectuals of the United States. Some are conservatives in the service of right wing think tanks. Others define themselves as progressives or even revolutionaries. Still others are popular entertainers who’ve been paid spokesmen for White corporate America.

Thankfully, some academics are using the modest and sensible tools of research to counter reaction.

The 2007 book Getting it Wrong: How Black Public Intellectuals Are Failing Black America by sociologist Algernon Austin corrects myths about African Americans and crime, educational decline, so-called “cultural deficiency,” racial self-hatred, and the alleged scourge of “acting White.”

Algernon Austin is the director of the Thora Institute and edits Black Directions, the Institute’s reports on social issues affecting African Americans. Austin is also the former director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy, and was a senior fellow at the Dēmos think tank. He’s taught sociology at DePaul and Wesleyan universities.

This episode’s interview comes from the 16th sub-basement of the archives at the Grand Lodge of Imhotep. I originally interviewed Dr. Austin by telephone on September 16, 2007; he spoke with me by telephone from his home in Connecticut. Our conversation cites Bill Cosby. Back in 2007, long before the public disgracing of Bill Cosby over numerous rape allegations, Cosby was in the public eye for what has come to be known as the “Poundcake” lectures, which were either calls for personal responsibility by, or attacks on, poor African Americans.

Algernon Austin begins by discussing the causes of increasing success of African students in the United States.

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