Humanity needs books. I don’t mean that everybody loves reading, because clearly that’s not true. But it is true that many of us do love books, not only for the remarkable ideas they make us consider, but for how they lift our morale above the mundanity and the cruelty of the world, and inspire our souls and our intellects to transform our societies for the better.
No genre is more devoted to such inspiration and transformation than science fiction. And that’s why the refusal of the science fiction publishing industry, for generations, to offer a racial, cultural, and gender palette that reflects the true range of humanity has been so galling. It has deprived the majority of the human race the comfort and provocation we seek, and deprived our species of the ingenuity that we would have unleashed had we been so inspired.
Fortunately, the last two decades in particular have seen the beginning of a change, with the rise of African writers winning major sales and the top prizes for science fiction and fantasy writing, and the emergence of my guest’s company, the multiracial SFF publishing house Rosarium.
Based in Washington DC, Rosarium publishes novels, graphic novels, and comics, beginning with the seminal anthology Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond. The house’s writers include Pan Morigan, Nisi Shawl, Sheree Renee Thomas, Maurice Broaddus, Damian Duffy, Jaymee Goh, Ed Hall, and John Jennings, among many others. If you check the MF GALAXY archive, you’ll hear my conversation with one of one of Rosarium’s authors, Eileen Kaur Alden, the writer of the Super Sikh comic.
Bill Campbell spoke with me online on March 03, 2018. We discussed:
Along the way, Campbell mentions “POD,” meaning “print-on-demand,” a system in which writers can get single copies of their books made for as little as a few dollars each, rather than having to pay to print, ship, and store hundreds of books at a time. Campbell also discusses his anthology Mothership and co-editor Ed Hall. In full disclosure, one of my stories is in that anthology.
Whether you hear this podcast the day it went live—April 30, 2018—or any other day, you’ll have some mass-shooting in the United States that makes this discussion timely. According to AOL.com, in 2017 the United States endured 345 mass shootings. The Atlantic reported in 2016 that the US, with less than five percent of the world’s population, holds 35 – 40 percent of the world’s guns. The Gun Violence Archive reports that in 2017, Americans used guns to kill 15,000 Americans; more than 3000 of them were teens; police shot or killed more than 2000; and more than 2000 shootings were unintentional.
According to stereotypes, US Republicans love guns and US Democrats hate them, and since African-Americans are overwhelmingly Democrats, according to the transitive principle, most African-Americans must hate guns, too, right? After all, a lethal triad of street criminals, police criminals, and Whitesupremacist criminals use guns to terrorise African-Americans.
But it’s not that simple, as history demonstrates, and as my guest today will show.
Chad Glover is a writer and software developer from Philadelphia. According to his bio, he “grew up in a household where guns were commonplace,” but he “didn’t explore firearms as a skill and legacy until he moved to Stone Mountain Georgia,” which he calls “the spiritual home of the KKK.” That led him to write “about the forgotten ways that firearm ownership shaped the struggle for African liberation,” a tradition that includes the Deacons for Defense and the Black Panther Party. He describes himself as “a liberal gun owner,” and an active part of a continually-growing African-American gun community. You can find his essays on his African gun ownership at his blog, Daddys-gun.com.
Chad Glover spoke with me by digital video on March 23, 2018, from his home in Atlanta. We discussed:
Hip hop began almost 50 years ago, and it’s changed more and encompassed more than any musical or lyrical aesthetic in that time that I can think of. Careers rise and fall, styles change and grow, but one thing remains the same: a great voice, clear delivery, a range of subjects, and intelligent insight as a package will almost guarantee immortality.
For years I hosted a radio show called Asiko Phantom Pyramid: Global African Musics Led by Headcharge of Hip Hop, and when it came to hip hop acts I’d play again and again, the list always include Public Enemy, KRS-One, Paris, and my guest today, the Boston-based rapper Akrobatik, and his partnership with the superb Mr. Lif in the crew called The Perceptionists. Akrobatik grabbed my imagination with 2003’s Balance, his first album, and proved he was no flash-in-the-pan with the 2005 Perceptionists album Black Dialogue. His music has appeared on HBO’s The Wire, in films such as Date Movie, and in video games such as Need for Speed: Most Wanted.
As a result of a ruptured heart valve, Akrobatik has also transformed himself physically, determined as he is to stay alive for his family, and to offer his gifts to the world. Those gifts include albums such as Absolute Value, Built to Last, and Resolution.
Akrobatik spoke with me by Skype on April 10, 2018 from his home in Boston. We discussed:
For ages, inside and outside fan circles, the stereotype was that Africans and Indigenous people don’t like science fiction. That’s a bizarre myth. After all, because both science fiction and fantasy offer the spirit and the intellect the chance to remake the world. For peoples who remember the historical destruction of their own worlds and live under oppression, escape stories offer indispensable hope—the dream that deliverance is possible. And when they offer the intellect the means to plan utopia, or at least a new-topia, they’re even more powerful.
That yearning helps explain the extraordinary success of Black Panther, and the promise offered by award-winning science fiction filmmakers such as my guest today, Danis Goulet. She’s a Cree-Metis filmmaker from LaRonge, Saskatchewan. She’s an alumna of the National Screen Institute's Drama Prize Program in Canada and the TIFF Talent lab. Her social realist and science fiction films and virtual reality work have gone to the Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance, and imagineNATIVE. Her VR includes The Hunt, and her films include the dramas Barefoot and Wapawekka, and the post-apocalyptic Wakening. That stunning 2013 short film imagines a future Toronto crushed under an unknown hypertechnological occupation. And engaging their ancient conflict at doomsday are two titans of Cree mythology: Weesagichak, the genderless shapeshifter from the stars, and Weetigo, the ruthless cannibal spirit of insatiable hunger.
On March 15, 2018, Danis Goulet spoke with me by Skype from her home in Toronto. We discussed:
I am a pernsnicketty cat—some would say difficult—and I have been known to argue at length that no one should ever use the expression “laughed out loud” because all laughter is out loud, by definition. So that means if I can overcome my boundless rage enough to invite the host of a national radio programme called Laugh Out Loud, I must really be impressed. And I am.
But Ali Hassan actually grabbed my attention not by MCing that showcase for Canadian comedians, but rather for his excellent work as an interviewer and guest host on CBC Radio’s q. I liked his voice, I liked his rapport with guests, and I liked his questions—but what totally floored me was that he easily and accurately dropped a reference to KRS-One during an interview without explaining it. I thought, I have got to contact this dude. So I did, and that’s what led to today’s conversation about the art, craft, and business of stand-up comedy and interviewing.
Hassan is a Pakistani-Canadian comedian, actor, and chef from Montreal. He’s toured Canada and performed at Just for Laughs and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival; he’s performed across the US and the Middle East, and took his one-man show Muslim, Interrupted to Scotland for the planet’s biggest comedy festival, the Edinburgh Fringe. He’s been in the movies Breakaway, French Immersion, and Goon!, and on TV he’s on Odd Squad, Man Seeking Woman, Game On, Cardinal, Designated Survivor, and FUBAR: Age of Computer.
Hassan spoke with me by Skype on February 2, 2018. We discussed:
It’s been well over two thousand, three hundred years since an actual Egyptian sat on the throne of the Nile Valley’s greatest civilisation. Since then, only foreigners have controlled Kemet, the true name for Egypt. And yet control over Kemet remains a fierce battle to this day.
On the one side are Eurocentrists who, to build their racial self-esteem, and to justify the massive crime of imperialism against Africa, have spent the last three hundred years Whitewashing the civilisation into something that their own Greek and Roman ancestors never claimed.
On the other side is everyone who embraces the historical record, physical anthropology, comparative linguistics and culture, and, of course, DNA. They recognise what most of Hollywood, Arabs in Egypt, and the Western academic establishment refuse to: that Kemet was an African civilisation from its farmers to its pharaohs.
Previously on MF Galaxy I’ve had a range of guests discussing African Egypt, including Molefi Kete Asante, Martin Bernal, Richard Poe, and Runoko Rashidi. Today I’m delighted to add a new authority to the roster: Deidra Ramsey McIntyre. She’s a programmer, tech-writer, journalist, entrepreneur, and teacher. She’s been a cross-disciplinary writer on Kemet for years, bridging genetics, culture, and ancient documents to demonstrate the Africanity of the Nile Valley civilisation.
McIntyre is also the administrator of the Facebook group Africa: Ancient Kemet & Nubia connection group. She creates succinct infographics about Kemet’s Africanity, and writes at length about Kemet on Quora.
McIntyre spoke with me by Skype from her home on February 22, 2018. We discussed:
Along the way, we discussed a range of topics, some of which don’t get explained in our conversation. So, a few notes:
Many Canadians, Indigenous and settler alike, were furious to learn the back-to-back verdicts in two murder cases. Juries declared Gerald Stanley not guilty of killing 22-year-old Colten Boushie, and Raymond Courmier not guilty of killing 14-year-old Tina Fontaine. The cases exposed how our colonial justice system makes it easy to exclude Indigenous citizens from juries and how rarely families can expect those who kill their loved ones to go to prison.
Some people protested in the streets. Some people protested with their art. Some people wept for the dead and for the future of their children. And some people did all three.
One such man is Rex Smallboy, the former leader of War Party, one of the country’s most successful hip hop bands ever. The motivational speaker and award-winning artist from Alberta’s Maskwacis Cree reserve released the song “Hey They Killing Us” immediately after the jury freed Tina Fontaine’s killer. You’ll hear it later in this show in which Smallboy discusses:
Rex Smallboy spoke with me by Skype on March 6, 2018. During our discussion he referred to Hobbema, the former settler name for the Maskwacis Cree reserve 70 km south of Edmonton.
Marvel’s Black Panther is a global sensation. As of Saturday, March 3, 2018, only two weeks and two days into its release, the Ryan Coogler/Joe Robert Cole film has grossed $US898 million worldwide. Within its first week it had outgrossed what DC’s Justice League took three months to earn, and the entire US runs of Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, The Incredible Hulk, the first Captain America, and the first two Thor films. It had the fifth-highest opening of all time and the third-highest four-day opening ever.
Of course, money isn’t everything, but the astonishing success of a film that is 100% obviously Africentric, starring African characters played by African actors, written by two African writers and directed by an African director, is game-changing. It negates in sky-writing every Hollywood executive who ever claimed that US-made movies about and by Africans could not make money outside the US.
And this is within the same 12-month period in which the African-made, Africentric film Get Out, shot on a budget of a paltry $4.5 million, earned a quarter of a billion dollars globally.
We’ve all seen the photos of African-Americans and African-Canadians wearing gorgeous African clothing to watch the premiere of the movie, and it’s clear that the film is inspiring generations of young and older global Africans the way that Star Wars inspired filmmakers and fans worldwide.
There are countless articles and podcasts and interviews about Black Panther, and some people have posted Wakanda curricula online—in fact, mine will be online at ministerfaust.com next week. And obviously the film has its detractors, too.
To discuss the film I asked a wide range of global African writers, filmmakers, academics, and political organisers to tell me their own experience of the film, its characters, its social significance, and its likely impact on Africentric filmmaking. On today’s episode of MF GALAXY, you’ll hear:
And for today’s episode, like last week’s show, I’m offering the bonus content for free. Find part 2 of today’s episode right now at patreon.com/mfgalaxy.
A reminder that this show is 100% spoilers.
Maybe you’ve been chained at the centre of the earth and the mole-people have been jamming your wifi since you got there, and that’s why you don’t know about the breathtaking Marvel blockbuster Black Panther. If so, I don’t know how you’re hearing this podcast, but my sympathies to you and I’ll try to lower a pitcher of lemonade on a long rope.
But for everyone else, as of February 21, not even a week after opening day, the $200M-budget movie has earned $441 million worldwide. The idea that a completely Africentric science fiction film with a pan-African cast, set in a fictional African country, with no major European stars, and written and directed by Africans, could achieve one of the biggest opening weeks ever was, even a few years ago, unthinkable. You could even say the idea of that success itself was Africentric science fiction. And now, it’s reality.
Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole wrote it, Coogler directed it, and Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright among many others starred in it, and it’s outstanding. Story-wise, in many ways it’s an Africentric Star Wars but set on Earth. The film inspired massive anticipation, far more than I ever would have guessed, and many African movie goers attended wearing gorgeous continental clothing to celebrate and posted their photographs to prove it.
But with so many people expecting so much, including some people who know very little about superheroes and science fiction, it’s inevitable that many people expected this action movie to do things that action movies can’t and shouldn’t do: that is, provide a saintly portrait of perfect people behaving nicely and checking off every box on their personal, political, cultural, and artistic agenda. Lemme tell you: no movie ever will do that, unless it’s two hours of rock-hard dullness.
This is an action movie with a mind, Marvel’s most intellectual, most feminist, and clearly most African. So I sat down at the African Safari Somali restaurant in the neighbourhood of Kush, Edmonton on February 18, 2018, with a group of brilliant and accomplished friends of mine: YA author Natasha Deen, arts organiser Darren Jordan, HIV activist Morenike Olaosebikan, Black Women United co-founder Junetta Jamerson, and Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta David Shepherd, to discuss the movie and its social significance. And let me be clear, our discussion is 100% spoilers.
Today and next week, as a special gift in honour of African History Month, I’m releasing the extended versions of this show absolutely free. Just go to Patreon.com/mfgalaxy to download more than 40 minutes of extended content, no charge. Of course, if you want to support MF GALAXY, please become a sponsor and access all the other bonus content.
A correction—I refer to the Great Djenne Mosque of Mali as being in Timbuktu, but that was silly of me, because of course the Great Djenne Mosque is in, where else, Djenne. Timbuktu is a separate city.
Continuing our programming for Black Panther Month ahead of the local and international review panels for the Marvel blockbuster, we’re delving deeper into historical African martial arts, or HAMA. If you loved the exciting, aspirational vision of a fictional African technostate with its own fighting arts, MF Galaxy is your show to learn about actual combat systems from the continent.
Yes, you know about East Asian martial arts such as Chinese kung fu, Korean tae kwon do, and Japanese judo, but what about Sudanese Nuba wrestling? Or stickfighting from Ancient Egypt called Tahtib or from Zululand called Nguni? Or Madagascari boxing called moraingy?
To discuss those forms and more, I spoke with Mansa Myrie. Originally from Red Deer, Alberta, Myrie is the Chief Operations Officer of the Historical African Martial Arts Association, a new and international organisation whose aim is to promote verifiable information about and practice of historical African fighting arts and warfare.
Myrie spoke with me from his home in Hamilton, Ontario by Skype on January 17, 2018. We discussed:
Along the way, he mentions “the Hamitic hypothesis” and the Hyksos. The Hamitic hypothesis was a 19th century European myth that survives to this day—a European racial esteem fantasy to claim that a range of African civilisations including Ancient Egypt were actually European. The Hyksos, or more properly known by their Ancient Egyptian name Heka Khasut, were non-African invaders from the west and east who at times dominated the country.
Dr. Adel Boulad video
This is Black Panther Month on MF GALAXY and with all the excitement surging about the Marvel movie about the Wakanda super-genius, superhero, super-fighter, the time is right to go beyond fictional African martials arts and discover authentic, deadly African martial arts from across the continent and across history.
Most people in the West think of the phrase “martial arts” as referring to East Asian fighting systems such as kung fu, karate, and tae kwon do, without realising that “martial arts” means any combat system. And certainly every culture in the world produced its own combat systems or its people would have been assimilated or annihilated.
So it really should not be a surprise that the African continent, home to humanity and birthplace of civilisation, should have scores of martials arts, ranging from the wrestling, sword systems, and stick fighting of Ancient Egypt, to the range of West African fighting arts, and that’s where we begin today.
Balogun Ojetade is a fascinating man with a remarkable history. The African-American playwright, filmmaker, and Steamfunk novelist is also a master of martials arts from Yoruba civilisation, an area covering Togo, Benin, and part of Nigeria. He runs the international African Martial Arts Institute whose headquarters are in Atlanta.
The school features a trio of West African systems he groups under the name Egbe Ogun, and seeks to promote African histories and cultures though demonstrations, lectures, workshops, classes, films, plays, and music. Egbe Ogun is a formidable system, and its experts are more than capable of meeting fighters from any other art head-on.
On January 18, 2018 Balogun Ojetade spoke with me by Skype from his home in Atlanta. We discussed:
To hear nearly half-an-hour of patrons-only bonus content from our conversation, 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 including this one with West African martial arts master Balogun Ojetade discussing:
What were the weapons in the arsenal of a man who survived a vicious racial dictatorship to emerge as an international ambassador for his people and his craft?
In the case of Hugh Masekela, who returned to the ancestors on January 23, 2018, the answer is two-part: a gramophone, and a Louis Armstrong trumpet.
Born outside Johannesburg in 1939, Masekela began playing music at age three--by way of winding his grandmother's gramophone and singing along. In his career, his own music would fuse South African mbaqanga, bebop, funk, and Nigerian Afrobeat. His prolific six decades of making music took him around the world and granted him the personal victories of playing with such titans Abdullah Ibrahim, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Zensi Miriam Makeba, and Fela Anikulapo Kuti. His single “Grazing in the Grass” in the early 1970s topped the Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash” on the US charts.
Humble and down-to-earth, yet deeply intelligent with a sweeping international perspective on art, politics, economics, and justice, Masekela was difficult to put in a single category. He didn’t even call himself a jazz musician.
After the Neo-Nazi apartheid regime banned his music, Masekela was forced to live in exile. He compared the effects of Apartheid to the effects of the European Holocaust against West and Central Africa, in that each operated by “making people lose their identity—that’s why families were broken up, so people lose their roots and self-esteem…. But it’s very difficult to take away in-grown culture from a person. It has failed throughout the ages.”
As if living in exile and the domestic banning of his music weren’t enough repression, his 1969 album Masekela was returned by a North American distributor “because they felt it was too radical.” But that didn’t make him hesitate to work with and befriend other radical artists and activists, including the late, brilliant Nigerian co-founder of Afrobeat, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. He eventually toured internationally with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Zensi Miriam Makeba, and Ray Phiri, was featured in the 2003 documentary Amandla!, released the autobiography Still Grazing, and remained active in humanitarian causes such as the Lunchbox Fund which serves meals to students at Soweto schools.
I was privileged to interview Hugh Masekela by telephone in September, 2000 before he performed in Edmonton, and meet him when he arrived. If you go to MFGalaxy.org and click today’s show notes, you’ll find a playlist of Hugh Masekela songs and videos that speak for themselves or accompany parts of our conversation.
Ron Pederson. I never worked with him but we crossed paths a bunch of times in Edmonton’s sketch comedy, improv, and theatre community, and then one day I up and turn on my TV and boom! There he is on MadTV, which for me was the funniest US sketch show ever made.
I shouldn’t’ve been so surprised he’d hit the big time. Other Edmontonians had made it big, including Michael J. Fox, Jill Hennessy from Law & Order, Bruce McCulloch from Kids in the Hall, and Nathan Fillion from Firefly. And Edmonton was and is English-speaking Canada’s leading theatre and sketch-improv city.
Still, to see a kid I knew on MadTV was exciting, and Ron was great. Plus I’d seen him kill in the gonzo science fiction musical comedy Road to Uranus by Dana Anderson and Cathleen Rootsaert. And he’d been a mainstay in the longform improv community with shows such as Die-Nasty!, and worked all across Canada with major outfits such as the Citadel in Edmonton, the Stratford Festival, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Tarragon, and more. So why not MadTV, huh?
But after three seasons, Ron left MadTV, and for plenty of people, by which I mean me, that raised the question, “What the hell? After you get on a show like freaking MadTV, why would you ever leave?”
Well, I decided to ask him.
In today’s MF GALAXY, Ron Pederson discusses:
We spoke by Skype on November 11, 2014.
To hear the nearly half an hour of patrons-only bonus content from my conversation with Ron Pederson, 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 including this one with Ron Pederson discussing:
Hey, MF GALAXY crew! Minister Faust here. Why not add your voice to the MF GALAXY podcast and the MF GALAXY blog?
That’s what listener and patron Jeff Quest did when I asked for opinions on the women of Star Wars, the Last Jedi. Jeff Quest is the blogger at SpyWrite.com and spybrary.com. In the following, he talks about how Rey is not only the new Luke Skywalker—she’s actually the better one.
Star Wars, The Last Jedi has got people talking about its exciting characters and battles and how iconic characters achieve their glory or meet their end. And for the first time there are plenty of female speaking roles in a Star Wars film: Rey, Rose and Paige Tico, Vice Admiral Holdo, Maz Kanata, Captain Phasma, and of course Princess Leia.
Some people claim, though, that reactions to the film are split along gender lines—that men hate it and women love it, because it’s the first Star Wars film to ask and answer the question, “What happens when men don’t listen to women?”
Well, obviously there are women who hate the film and men who love it (me included), but rather than argue about love-hate gender percentages that no one has actually measured, why not just ask some remarkable women what they thought about the female characters, their personalities and deeds, and whether the film does them justice?
So I did. On today’s MF GALAXY you’ll hear from Lisa Yaszek, science fiction scholar at Georgia Tech; Sylvia Douglas, a lead organiser of Lady Geeks Unite in Edmonton, and SG Wong, speculative crime novelist and community organiser, also from Edmonton.
Together, they’ll cover:
Sylvia Douglas + Lady Geeks Unite
pwp.gatech.edu/lyaszek (copy and paste this link into your browser)