Friday, July 25, 2014

Chokwe Lumumba (1947-2014) and Cleo Silvers On the the Pivotal Roles of Race, Class And Gender In The Struggle For A Revolutionary Society And Culture in the United States

Free the Land:  An Interview with Chokwe Lumumba
Issue 14: A World to Win
by Bhaskar Sunkara

(PHOTO BY Trip Burns / Jackson Free Press)

In his last interview, Chokwe Lumumba discusses popular power and the past and future of revolutionary struggle in the American South.

Chokwe Lumumba’s dilemma was simple: how to be a revolutionary in a Mississippi the popular imagination would paint as anything but.

It was a mission that seemed bound to alienate and polarize long before he became mayor of Jackson, home to a State Capitol building that flies a defiant Confederate battle flag and a City Hall built by slave labor.

But when I went to Jackson to profile the newly elected Lumumba last year and in my conversations with Mississippians throughout this year, I was shocked at how hard it was to find someone who didn’t like him. Mainstream politicians like Rickey Cole, chairman of the state Democratic Party, and his staff were keen to show solidarity with Jackson’s new administration. They talked about Lumumba’s honor and integrity, whatever their political differences. After the mayor’s death in February at the age of sixty-six, Cole called him “a man by the people, of the people, and for the people.”

Even city business leaders like Ben Allen, president of Downtown Jackson Partners, expressed surprise during Lumumba’s administration about how clear, open, and efficient his first few months in office had been. Hampered by a lack of city revenue and hostility at the state level, Lumumba had just passed a one-cent local sales tax to fund Jackson’s infrastructure. The taps ran brown and many roads were in disrepair when I visited the city, and the Environmental Protection Agency had threatened action if waste systems weren’t upgraded. There was nothing especially radical about the tax, except for the fact that Lumumba took his case to the people, explaining the situation and winning consent for the measure in a referendum.

It gave a new resonance to the “sewer socialist” tradition that administered public office for generations in Milwaukee and elsewhere in the twentieth century. But there were signs that if the mayor and his Malcolm X Grassroots Movement stayed in power, the deepening of their revolution would attract something of a counterrevolution in response.

Lumumba was born in Detroit as Edwin Finley Taliaferro. He saw racism growing up, from all-white restaurants in Dearborn that wouldn’t serve his family to housing and job discrimination in the inner city. It instilled a level of social consciousness in the young man, consciousness that would only grow as he absorbed the era’s images: Emmett Till’s battered teenaged corpse, street battles and sit-ins, and, most formatively, the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Like so many other black youth, he was radicalized. Adopting his “free name” from a Central African ethnic group and slain Congolese revolutionary Patrice Lumumba, Chokwe put ambitions of becoming a lawyer on hold to join the fight. He was attracted to the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) movement, which had roots in Detroit but relocated to Jackson. They wanted a new nation in the African-American majority counties of the Southeast.

In 1971, Lumumba joined them in Jackson — where, as in other cities in Mississippi, blacks had little political representation and nostalgia for Jim Crow was still strong. In August of that same year, local police and FBI agents raided the RNA compound. In the ensuing gun battle, during which Lumumba was not present, a police officer was killed and another, along with a federal agent, was wounded. Eleven New Afrika members were arrested. In the aftermath, Lumumba moved back to Detroit, finishing law school at Wayne State University in 1975 before finding his way back to Jackson a decade later.

But Lumumba’s was not the tale of a radical coming to terms with society as it exists, like so many from the New Left. His legal career was radical and often controversial. He took on a host of high-profile cases, including those of Fulani Sunni Ali, rapper Tupac Shakur, and former Black Panther Party members Geronimo Pratt and Assata Shakur.

He never renounced the goal of black self-determination or apologized for his activism during his Republic of New Afrika years. Lumumba told me in the interview below that only his tactics had changed in light of the new political avenues now open to black militants in the South.

“At that time, in the seventies, we were locked out of government completely,” he said. “We were actually victims of government violence, so we protected ourselves against that repression.”

Today, the situation is different. From Tunica, in northwest Mississippi, to Wilkerson County, in the southwest, there are eighteen predominantly black counties in the state that have in the last few decades finally been able break the domination of white officeholders. Lumumba saw this as only the start of the deep transformation that the region needed.

“One of the routes to that self-determination,” he told me, “is to use the governmental slots in order to accumulate the political power that we can, and then to demand more, and to build more.” But he was quick to portray his movement as an inclusive socialist one. “This is not a ‘hate whitey’ movement. This is not some kind of a reactionary nationalist movement.”

Lumumba and the activists who rallied around his campaigns hoped to establish two planks of political power: one based on people’s assemblies and another on a solidarity economy, built on a network of worker-owned cooperatives. The assemblies were, for the moment, purely advisory. They started in Ward 2, while he was a councilman, but spread after his election as mayor.

Mississippi has had truly universal suffrage for only a little more than a generation. Yet Lumumba wanted to foster a democratic culture that was not just representative, but participatory. Inviting people to voice their grievances in town halls and have a say in the distribution of public resources was part of that commitment. But he had loftier ambitions: over time, he wanted the new organs of people’s power, absolute and direct democracy, to replace existing structures.

He didn’t even think that his government could be equated with “people’s power.” “That’s still a struggle to be achieved; that’s a goal to be reached. That’s not where we are now,” Lumumba cautioned.

The solidarity economy schemes were just as ambitious. While keenly aware of and open about the limits of political and economic experimentation on the local level — and seeing his new administration’s efforts as transitional — Lumumba wanted to use city contracts and economic leverage to foster worker ownership. Invoking the Ujamaa concept of former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, he hoped to transform a full 10 percent of Jackson’s economy into cooperatives by the end of his first term alone. The administration had been planning for months to debate and explore their options with activists and outside experts at a “Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference” in May.

It was less about spearheading a revolution from above than creating a climate of radical thought and experimentation that could take on dynamics of its own. In the meantime, even Jackson’s moderates were won over by clean and efficient government and Lumumba’s easy charm and humor.

That support would have been needed. Activists within the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement worried that if they went too far too fast, the state legislature could limit self-governance in Jackson, maybe even place the city under trusteeship. What’s more, both sides knew that the honeymoon period with downtown developers couldn’t last either. Real economic and political transformation requires taking power away from those not keen on relinquishing it.

This interview was conducted with Lumumba in February 2014, several days before he died from heart failure. For the Left, a few lessons in particular should be drawn from it. Lumumba governed to inspire movements from below, not to administer austerity. There need not be a contradiction between holding office, even executive office, and building a radical opposition.

Lumumba navigated these waters successfully despite the fact that he ran as a Democrat. Utilizing open primaries — a peculiarity of the American system — may not be the best route for socialists in northern cities where liberal machines still dominate and neutralize insurgencies from within, but it can make tactical sense elsewhere.

Nowhere is that truer than in states such as Mississippi. One of the most progressive voting blocs in the country is in the so-called Black Belt: the African-American majority counties that stretch across the Southeast. Without sufficient progressive numbers statewide to swing states in the electoral college or to elect anyone but local officials, these constituencies are ignored by presidential-cycle-minded national liberals. They shouldn’t be by socialists and all those committed to building militant currents among the most oppressed.

Success doesn’t come easy. But Lumumba and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement showed how years of disciplined work “serving the people,” including politicized relief work after Hurricane Katrina, could pay off in the electoral arena and how those victories could expand rather than restrict popular power.

We’ll need many more efforts like it in the years to come to end class and racial exploitation. And that’s the only way fit to commemorate a comrade as astounding as Chokwe Lumumba.

Sunkara: You came to Jackson in the early 1970s — what was the political climate in the city like at the time?

Lumumba: When I came to Jackson in March 1971, it was just about six to eight months after two Jackson State University students — James Earl Green and Phillip Lafayette Gibbs — had been killed on the campus.

The Civil Rights Movement rocked the foundation of the white-supremacist government and culture in the South. And across Mississippi, a lot of good work was spearheaded by Fannie Lou Hamer, Vernon Dahmer, Medgar Evers and others. In 1964, they helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. That party, in the early seventies, had a profound effect on the state Democratic Party. It was forced, for instance, to mandate that half of its delegates would have to be black and half be women.

So the Civil Rights Movement had significant gains, but repression was still extreme. Discrimination on jobs was commonplace. Even though the Civil Rights Movement had pretty much nationally won acceptance of the idea that Mississippi apartheid, or Jim Crow, as it was called, had to go, in the state there was still resistance to it. It was clear that even where access had come to universities and to restaurants, that was not associated with access to power — economic or political — for blacks.

There were very few blacks that were political officials — none in Mississippi’s major cities, and only some in small towns. Economically, it was still pretty much a white supremacist system. Rich whites owned production and blacks and others were relegated to the fringes.

At the same time, we still faced intimidation from right-wing forces. Klansmen populated police departments, and so on.

Around the country, a lot of black people’s movements had moved from the phase of just merely turning the other cheek in the face of attacks and egregious repression to actually declaring the right to self-defense, under the inspiration of Malcolm X. And that certainly was the position that we took, which inevitably led to clashes between those who were used to preying on blacks — and particularly movement blacks, like civil rights organizers — without any kind of response, and our determination to say that we weren’t going to be victimized.

We came in peace, but we came prepared.

Given this context, during the 1970s, you were a supporter of the Republic of New Afrika movement. How do you reflect on this period in your activism? Have your political views shifted at all in regards to black self-determination and the methods in which it can be achieved?

My view on self-determination is the same. First of all, it’s a fundamental right for all people — not just black people. I’d say that what has changed are the tactics, and somewhat the strategy, for reaching that goal.

In the seventies, we were locked out of government completely. We were actually victims of government violence, so we protected ourselves against that repression. But since that time, particularly in Jackson, where I am now the mayor, the population changed. The city is now 85 percent black. Many of those people have worked together with us as we fought for rights for our youth, political prisoners, the victims of racism, the prosecution of the murder of Medgar Evers, and so on.

We’ve been able to politicize the growing black population in Jackson, and in the state. We now have not just an 85 percent black population, but a black population prepared to elect progressive leadership.

The tactical change here is that we now can elect black people into government, particularly into local governments and county-wide governments. And we have a whole region called the Kush region, as we’ve named it, on the western part of Mississippi — everywhere from Tunica, which is the northwest, all the way down to Wilkinson County, which is southwest, and everywhere in between those two points. A contiguous land mass of 18 different counties; 17 of them are predominantly black. Only one of them, Warren County, is about 47 percent black.

In those areas, the population has been now for some time electing black sheriffs, black mayors, black city council people, et cetera. So what we have determined is that one of the routes to that self-determination is to use the governmental slots in order to accumulate the political power that we can, and then to demand more, and to build more, and even to build more statewide as the leverage for our position so we can launch an effort for more statewide control and participation by the black population.

I think it is important to say here, because I know some people will mischaracterize this, that this is not a “hate whitey” movement; this is not some kind of a reactionary nationalist movement. This is a movement that is geared toward winning the right of self-determination. It is our view that where you have a majority-black population, they have the right to have the majority of political power, to exercise the majority of the economic power and social power, to build that kind of influence. And at the same time they have a responsibility to make sure that the resources of society are equally available to all residents, whether they be white, Hispanic, Indian, and so on and so forth — particularly Indian, I would say. But all folks.

Last year, in an interview with the Jackson Free Press, Jackson’s police chief, Lindsey Horton, inadvertently laid out a pretty vulgar Marxist view of policing. He said that policing goes back to the biblical days — you can’t have a civilized society with haves and have-nots without the have-nots trying to take from the haves. Policing defends property.

How does administering these repressive parts of the state in Jackson clash with the movement’s values? What, if anything, can be done to change the nature of policing in Jackson, considering we’ll probably be living in a class society for a little while longer?

There have been a lot of contradictions in our struggle, and this is just another one. There are many stages of struggle that have contradictions in them. As a lawyer, people used to call me the “revolutionary lawyer” because I served political prisoners, took on causes for resistance and helped the movement move forward in many different ways. But nothing could be more of an oxymoron than a “revolutionary lawyer,” because the law itself is a reactionary thing in the United States, which has been set up, in many instances, by the people who keep us oppressed. There’s no question about that.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a lawyer, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t serve the people as a lawyer, and that you can’t fight for people’s rights as a lawyer, and that you can’t do all you can in order to change the situation. It’s the same thing in this position as mayor. And in fact, we think I can do more in this position than I could as a lawyer.

We’ve made sure that Lindsey Horton is in line with our vision that we are working to change the situation between haves and have-nots in order to bring up people who are have-nots and put them in a position where they will be equally respected in this society, where the social forces in this society will respect their equality and that, therefore, would reduce crime. Jobs and other programs reduce the need for crime. I don’t think that Mr. Horton is where I am on the issue, and he doesn’t have the background that I have, but I do believe that’s one of the obligations I have, to try to teach those who are in my administration the points that are important to the transition of society.

So, yes, we still run into some behavior which is problematic in terms of our march forward to create a revolutionary culture down here, to create a culture that challenges all repression and all types of exploitation — and the struggle against that manifests itself in many different ways — but I think so far, we’ve been pleasantly surprised at the response that we’ve gotten from people.

However, just because the people were ready to step forward and say, “Oh, I want to make that change,” does not mean that all the people who voted have a thorough understanding of what that change is, or how we’ve got to go about that change. And the same is true for all the people who work for the government.

You just alluded to your work as a cofounder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the movement’s role in your election. How do you see the relationship between the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and your position now as mayor of Jackson? Have there been measures to maintain the independence of the movement? Is it hard to govern without demobilizing the activists and the energy that actually got you in office? Or do you not see a contradiction between having a grassroots movement and also holding executive power?

Here again, you’re good at asking questions that present contradictions, but you certainly identified one there. It was a contradiction that was raised in Detroit when they elected their first black mayor, Coleman Young, who had some history of fighting for the labor movement and for the rights of our people. It raised itself in Chicago when Harold Washington was elected, and it’s true for some cities. And it may be nowhere more manifested than right here in the city of Jackson. There is a tendency — this is what creates the contradiction — for movement groups and protest groups and other activists who are trying to get revolutionary change to put their movement on hold and to rely exclusively on the mayor and the mayor’s staff to get things done for the people.

That’s a mistake. Our administration has very little more control over the economic realities of our society than we did before we got in these positions. We have some technical control over those things — or technical influence, let’s put it that way. But not real control — and especially in a city setting, as opposed to being in charge of the whole state. The contradictions exist. So what you have to do is, you have to tell the folks they have to be steadfast. You have to teach them that it’s important to have someone in office who’s trying to fight for the right things.

That’s necessary, but not sufficient. It’s not sufficient to win our struggle. We need to encourage the whole population to become involved in the movement for change.

To foster that kind of involvement, you’ve encouraged the creation of people’s assemblies. Do you envision direct democracy of this type just augmenting traditional representative offices, or one day replacing them?

The people’s assembly is a body where the people challenge government, ask government questions, get informed by government, and protest government when necessary. And that’s a movement that we support, and we to continue to support, to tell people that government is totally in their hands — and that’s on all levels: federal, state, and local.

The assembly should represent all things that don’t currently represent the people’s authority. And in many instances, that will be some of the elected government. And some of the bureaucratic structures. So I think the people should become more and more involved in reforming and changing the structures that surround them and the people that surround them — determining who handles structures, and how they should be elected, and who should be elected — until the people’s power becomes the same as, becomes simultaneous with, the development of government.

Now what does that mean? Does that mean that you have to have something different in terms of the name of the government, something different in structures? It’s probably going to mean that. That’s going to be for the people to decide. But right now, I don’t think it would be truthful to say, even though we are building a people’s government, that our government at this time is simultaneous with, and the exact same as, people’s power.

That’s still a struggle to be achieved; that’s a goal to be reached. That’s not where we are now.

You described the type of economy you’d like to build in Jackson as a “solidarity economy.” You’ve mentioned worker-owned co-ops and banks, community land trusts, and participatory budgeting. How is this progressing considering the fact that you are, as you mentioned, running a city where you can’t deficit-finance like we could at the national level?

Yes, there are limitations to what we can accomplish. We know that the problem is that too few people control too many of the resources that people live on, and that’s why you have your big gap between haves and have-nots.

What can we do in order to change that situation? Well, from the mayor’s position, a number of these companies want to get local contracts from us. We can create rules, and that’s what we’ve done. Jackson’s open for business, but if you’re going to do business in Jackson, then we say, “Look, you’re going to have to employ the people of Jackson.” And we say that over 50 percent of your subcontracting has to go out to what they call minorities — I don’t really agree with that term, but we’ll use it for the time being. It could mean Native American contractors; it could mean various other people like that. So that’s something to help begin some change.

However, that’s not comprehensive enough, because it leaves out a lot of the private sector who do not come through government in order to get their contracts, and the people employed by these businesses. We are a city, and I don’t want you to mistake us, yet, for a revolutionary state or some other place. We can’t seize corporations and turn them over to the people. We can’t do that. So that’s one of the limitations.

And secondly, we can have influence on trying to stop these corporations from discriminating on various different levels, because we can it make it uncomfortable for them. But we don’t have the ability to police that completely, because we’re just a city.

What did the movement look like before you were elected, either during the campaign or before it, in terms of community work building some sort of presence in the city?

That’s a good question. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement was created here in Jackson in 1990, and it was predated by some other work you have already referred to — the Republic of New Afrika — that started here back in 1971. So over the years, a lot of work has been done. But more importantly, since 1990, we have been engaged in a lot of youth programs. We have literally been involved in helping hundreds of youths go to college who would not have gone to college, and probably would not have finished high school, had it not been for us. We have run programs where they’ve learned about their cultural heritage, where they’ve gotten aid and assistance in the academic world, where they’ve had a chance to learn drama, and so many other things — and where they really became stand-up figures in their community.

We’ve also defended a lot of people who were the victims of racial abuse. We’ve done that all over the state. And that helped our situation. We helped thousands of Hurricane Katrina survivors. We literally sent tons of material aid to Gulf Coast survivors of Katrina, and we created political programs, political projects, and political organizations in order to fight the abuses that the Katrina residents were suffering.

As you know, Katrina happened in 2005. My first election to anything was in 2009, when we ran for City Council. We were also engaged in a lot of work to straighten out specific communities — building a garden, for instance, to help food flow for some people, and really for the idea of bringing people in the community together.

And we aligned ourselves with a lot of the civil rights organizations here who are working on many projects. A lot of them had to do with the so-called criminal justice system. So many people going to prison — not only those who are being wrongly convicted, but those who became sensitive to the problem that America wasn’t really providing, and that Mississippi’s system wasn’t providing, the opportunity for a number of young people to grow up in a healthy social environment.

We united with a very progressive ACLU movement in Mississippi at the time, with the NAACP, who worked on many of these projects, and with a number of other people and organizations that were dealing with the prison situation. Fifty prisoners had been killed in jail over a five-year period in the state. So we got involved in that project and exposed that in several instances they were not all victims of suicide as had been claimed. There was some skullduggery going on.

Those are some of the things, off the top of my head, that I can tell you about that we were working on at the time of our election. And of course we were building the people’s assembly before I got elected mayor.

Do you see your success in Jackson as being indicative of a model that could work nationally? I know the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement organizes across the state, and elsewhere in the South, but have you sought national alliances with other left groups?

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement definitely seeks alliances with other groups, and the idea of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is to build a movement of what we call a new Afrikan people. And a new Afrikan people is the same thing as black people, or so-called “African-American people.” But it’s also to build a movement of people, period. In other words, to create a positive, progressive movement across the borders of the United States and internationally.

We fully understand that there’s no freedom for us unless there’s freedom for everybody. Martin Luther King said that at one point, and I think it’s very true. So we seek different kinds of relationships, and we want to spread the things that we are doing, which we think are useful and can help people in other places. Of course, people are going to have to organize and plan based on the conditions in their own areas.

But the people’s assembly is something we recommend, and actually, the people’s assembly is something we borrowed from elsewhere. Our use of the assembly really comes from Katrina, with the destruction of New Orleans. There was a survivors’ assembly created in order to try to help folks in the New Orleans area and in the Gulf Coast area to reclaim their land and their jobs and their educational status. We facilitated that from Jackson, which is about two and a half hours away from the Gulf Coast. But we later decided that we would create an assembly for ourselves in order to advance our political objectives, so we wouldn’t wind up in a situation like the folks did down in New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast.

But yes, we certainly think that’s a model that can be exported and work for others across the country.

What has the response been from the Right in Jackson and Mississippi as a whole? Obviously, you’re contending with a hostile and very conservative state legislature.

The New Afrikan Independence Movement — which the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is a part of, and is preceded by the Republic of Afrika and others — has been hated by the Right. We may be the most hated group by the Right, historically. And that was reflected in the way we got elected. During the election process, those communities that are more identified with the right wing voted almost unanimously for the other candidate.

I didn’t get many of those votes at all. In fact, there was one precinct where I got three votes. But fortunately, we got overwhelming support from the majority of the city, from people who benefited from our long struggle against repression, as opposed to people who felt threatened by that long struggle. However, I would like to suggest something: since I’ve been elected, even though those forces still exist which would oppose us, we have been getting overwhelming support, initially, from all sectors of the community.

I’m sure we’re not getting it from the Tea Party, or the extreme right — don’t get me wrong. But I’m saying that clearly there are white people in the city who were persuaded by Tea Party right-wingers and others that we were the devil, who are now realizing that is not true. And they see the logic in what we’re talking about, and we seem to be getting their support.

Now, there’s a lot to that, and some other time we can both talk about it and dissect it, and I’m sure there are going to be some strains in that relationship from time to time as people have difficulty understanding the sacrifices that they have to make in order to get a really revolutionary, changed society, and the other things that are involved in our transition. But as of right now, we’re actually in a period where we’re getting overwhelming support from across the city.

As an example, we just put a referendum on the ballot and got 91 percent support. That means that we got support from every segment of the community, and the referendum had to do with work that we need to do to repair the infrastructure of our city. That’s good for us, because we’re going to march on ideas which ultimately do help everybody, not just the black population. So I think we’re on a little bit of a honeymoon still, and I’m sure there will be a lot of political struggle in the future.

But as long as we can stay on the right side of it, keep the good ideas, and not get politically reactionary, then I think that ultimately — I’m sure that ultimately — we will win.

Portions of the introductory notes were first published in the Nation.

When the Union’s the Enemy: An Interview with Cleo Silvers
by Andrew Elrod

Cleo Silvers, a former organizer with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, discusses racism in the labor movement.
In 1973, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health issued a report on the auto industry estimating that workplace diseases alone were responsible for about sixty-five deaths a workday — more than 16,000 a year.

The numbers were shocking, but they gave some explanation for the dramatic upsurge in wildcat actions over the preceding half-decade — what historian Jeremy Brecher calls the “labor dimension of the Vietnam War era revolt.” The report also substantiated a claim made thereafter by labor activists: the number of autoworkers killed and injured surpassed the number of American soldiers killed and maimed in any year in the Vietnam War.

In the five years after 1968, workplace grievances inundated the union bureaucracy as newfound expectations of decency and dignity invigorated a generation of American industrial workers. The New York Times reported that the young workers entering the labor force were “better educated and want treatment as equals from the bosses” were opposed to “work they think hurts their health or safety, even though old-timers have done the same work for years,” and “want fast changes and sometimes bypass their own union leaders and start wildcat strikes.”

In the auto plants of Detroit, where an all-white management and union leadership confronted a darkening workforce, these grievances often assumed a racial edge. Of all the rank-and-file caucuses that formed in this tumultuous period, perhaps none was more militant than the League of Revolutionary Black Workers.

Founded in 1969 to unify several black caucuses that sprouted up amid a strike wave, the League worked to organize independent black power within the labor movement for the explicit purpose of socialist revolution. A far-fetched goal to twenty-first century American ears, in that raucous denouement of the New Left, the League — and its short-lived national equivalent, the Black Workers Congress — advanced its cause in the political space opened by the UAW’s shortcomings on working conditions and racial inequality.

For black autoworkers, upward mobility in the plant was a rarity; as Nelson Lichtenstein writes in his biography of Walter Reuther, “Black workers called the skilled trades ‘the Deep South’ of the UAW.” And though most auto work was dangerous, it was black workers who bore the brunt of the industry’s hazardous tasks. In his 1976 book Auto Work and Its Discontents, labor activist B.J. Widick quotes one company official as saying, “[S]ome jobs white folks will not do; so they have to take niggers in… It shortens their lives, it cuts them down but they’re just niggers.”

Despite its work funding the Freedom Riders and the March on Washington, the UAW was guilty of its own institutional racism. By 1962, it had failed to elect a single black member to its twenty-two-person executive board, despite the fact that African-Americans by then composed a quarter of the Detroit membership. By 1968, there were still just two. Locked out of union leadership, their workplace grievances ignored, many activists turned to organizing wildcat actions.

This was the context in which the League of Revolutionary Black Workers was born. Though it would quickly collapse amid competing visions of black power, the League’s emergence underscored both the institutional limits of the post-war labor movement, especially in regards to race, and the consequence of that failure: a generation of activists alienated from their union. As Lichtenstein notes, “whatever their politics, DRUM’s [a League precursor] founding cohort constituted the same species of ideologically motivated cadre who had animated the UAW in its heroic youth.” Rather than incorporate this cohort, the UAW rejected their racial grievances and condoned managerial repression of shop-floor agitation.

One of these cadre was Cleo Silvers, a former social worker with VISTA in Harlem who had organized with the Black Panthers and Young Lords before turning to independent rank-and-file organizing. I recently spoke with Cleo about her time with the Revolutionary Union Movements in both New York and Detroit during the early 1970s.

You came to New York City as a social worker with VISTA, after which you began working at Lincoln Hospital. How did you end up in Detroit organizing autoworkers?

I met Jim [Forman] and several other friends in the process of the work that I was doing with HRUM, the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement, which was about organizing independent organizations of workers in the health care industry. That came from the struggles initiated at Gouverneur Hospital, at Lincoln Hospital, and several other hospitals in New York City.

The major struggle for hospital workers was around the issues of increasing education needs of the workers, bettering working conditions, and, not only that, the workers in the hospital industry also fought around patient issues.

HRUM actually began as a result of the Think Lincoln Committee, which was a coalition of community people, members of the Young Lords and the Black Panther Party concerned with hospital conditions. At the time I was a community mental health worker at Lincoln Hospital, which was so bad that people would be left in the emergency room for 72 hours and not be seen.

If you didn’t speak English it was almost impossible for you — they didn’t have translators — it was almost impossible for you to speak to your doctor. A woman who came to the hospital for a saline abortion was killed on the surgery table. There were people who went in for surgery and had the wrong kidney extracted. The people felt in the community that they were being used as guinea pigs.

We set up a patient complaint table in the emergency room. This is how we really got to understand what the conditions were inside the hospital. Patients would come to us with their complaints, and we would document them and compile them until we had a stack of complaints that you would not believe. And it didn’t take us a long time to acquire that many coming from the people in the community. It was really a horrible set of conditions inside that hospital for the patient.

Were you a union member at this time?

I was a member of 1199, but 1199 saw us as a bunch of troublemakers inside the union. We were young. We were arrogant. We knew that we were right. We knew that what we were fighting for was something that was going to be positive for the community. It was going to be positive for our class, for the young people coming up behind us, because we were fighting for better conditions.

We were fighting for a more equal distribution of the resources in society in general. We were fighting for an end to police brutality. We were fighting for the basics — for the right to be treated as a human being, the franchise, the equal ability to have access to all the things the society has to offer. We were kind of tough guys, in the sense that we demanded that they hear us. We wouldn’t go into a union meeting and not be heard. If they refused to call on us we would just take over the microphone and make our case to the rank-and-file that was in attendance at the meeting.

In the process of building our organization, we had learned about DRUM and the League. We began doing political education, and we were beginning to recognize that the working class had a role in society that was greater than most people understood. I was the co-chair of HRUM, and during one of our meetings with Jim Forman and several of the League workers — at that time I believe they had developed into the Black Workers Congress — there was a vote that I should take my organizing skills that I developed here in New York City, with HRUM and with several of the other organizations, and go to Detroit and organize in the auto plants.

When I got to Detroit I got set up in the home of Mike Hamlin, who was the chairman of the League. I met and studied with the Central Committee, which included General Baker, John Watson, Ken Cockrel.

What sort of work was the League doing in Detroit?

One thing was the book clubs. The reason those book clubs were necessary was that there were lots and lots of white people who were activists who were interested in supporting the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Black Workers Congress, but of course if you weren’t black or a person of color you could not be in the organization.

The League got me a job. The companies would have these cattle calls for workers to come into different plants, based on what they needed. There happened to be, when I came into the city, a call for workers at Dodge Truck. I was taken over, and I got hired on at the Dodge Truck plant in Warren, Michigan, which is right outside Detroit.

The racial composition in the plant at that time was about 70 percent African-American. There were Arabs. A very strong Arab community in the Detroit metropolitan area. There were Latinos, but that was a very small group. So the struggle inside the plant took all kinds of turns.

There was one struggle that was very interesting between the Arabs and the African-Americans. The African-Americans used to call the Arabs “camel jockeys.” The activists, the Marxists, came together and began to encourage the black workers to recognize that if they don’t want to be called a nigger, then you don’t want to call those Arab workers, who are your comrades that are on this line working with us, camel jockeys. Slowly, we began to build very strong relationships, and when it came time to take a plant-wide action, all of the workers who we built relationships with were involved and supportive, and took action along with us.

What sorts of issues did people organize around?

There was the paint shop, where workers had very little to support their breathing. They didn’t have masks that were very good, and the masks were overused, and the workers were breathing in paint and of course dying as a result of breathing in this paint. Speedup was the other important thing.

I worked in two areas. It was a filthy job, where you put the frames onto the line, and then you have several bolts and nuts that you had to attach to the frame. My second job was installing brake fluid cups. Brake fluid is a corrosive, and it would corrode my hands and feet. They gave you one pair of vinyl gloves per week and one apron per week and one pair of boots, because the brake fluid was running onto the ground, and it would eat through that stuff.

And I had been harassed by foremen. You know, foremen’s thing with women, that’s another issue. There weren’t a lot of women in the plant, and those that were there were always being harassed, whether you were black or white or whatever. It was not unexpected for a foreman to come up to you and say, if you sleep with me I’ll give you a better job.

Were there any deaths at the plant?

Absolutely, yes. There were several. One worker was crushed by a huge motor. The motors are very, very big, and they are extremely heavy. The really big guys were responsible for moving the motor around and dropping it into the shell of the truck, and one guy got crushed by a motor. There were people that lost hands and other limbs on the line because management would never stop the line when they were asked. Sometimes you could get stuck, and the thing is to stop the line. But managers would not stop the line. And you would be fired immediately if you were a worker on the line and you stopped the line.

What was the union’s role at the plant?

The UAW actually had a low profile at Dodge Truck. They had their votes, they had their meetings. We attended a few meetings. But the work that we were doing, with so many workers, you start to build relationships with so many workers. We didn’t really have time to fool with the UAW. Some of them were like, “yeah the UAW, they’re not shit, they ain’t doin’ this or that.”

But the point was that the UAW only fought for you if you were in the plant and your hand got cut off, then they would come and stop the line, you know, negotiate with management, that kind of thing. Or the workers in the paint shop decided, this is too much today. We’re breathing in too much of the fumes from the paint, we’re not going to do this anymore. Then the union would come down and try to negotiate with the workers to go back to work.

Did you witness a lot of shop floor activism disciplined by the union?

Absolutely, yes.

How did that go?

They would be like, you know, “you guys are fuckin’ up!” And really that’s what they’d tell you. And we’d say, “you’re fucking up by not demanding quality conditions, decent conditions, for us, for the workers. So don’t come over here tellin’ us we’re fuckin’ up. That’s not us, that’s you.” So there was back and forth all the time between us.

Were you aware of the work the union had done to support the Civil Rights Movement?

That’s before the period in which the League of Revolutionary Black Workers took place. So yes they did progressive things, but that was way back in the Civil Rights Movement. You see, the development of the League came on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, as a result of workers not wanting to be nonviolent, and recognizing that it was important to organize on a class basis. The Civil Rights Movement was done on a racial basis. The struggle for equality and justice inside a town like Detroit was fully based on working class awareness.

What sorts of actions did the workers take against poor conditions?

There were heat walkouts, several every year. In the summer inside the plant it would get up to 120 degrees, and our position was that once the temperature was over 120 degrees that is not a place for human beings to be working in.

Management would not shut the plant down. They would expect us to continue to work. But even workers who didn’t agree with us did not want to be working in [a] 120 degree auto plant. It wasn’t that difficult. We would go all around the plant and say, “It’s very hot today, once it hits 120 degrees we’re all leaving.” Everybody would leave. Who wants to be there? It was led by us, the young members of the League, the young black workers, and supported very heavily by the Arab workers, and some of the white workers too.

That’s the other thing that was going on. When you are working in a place like an auto plant, it is very difficult to maintain prejudice, because we’re all in the same boat, we’re all doing the same thing, and you get to discuss. “Here I’m standing next to you on the line.” “Well I don’t like you!” “Why you don’t like me? We have to care about each other!” And you have to watch each other’s back.

So that’s one of the most important things. You want to see prejudice and racism obliterate itself? Give a group of people a job to do where they have to share the responsibility and the labor. I think that’s one of the great things I learned inside the auto plant.

Raison d’être
Jacobin is a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture. The print magazine is released quarterly and reaches over 6,000 subscribers, in addition to a web audience of 300,000 a month.

Bhaskar Sunkara
Remeike Forbes
Seth Ackerman
Max Ajl
Nicole Aschoff
Alyssa Battistoni
Mike Beggs
Megan Erickson
Peter Frase
Connor Kilpatrick
Erin Schell
Scott McLemee
Rebecca Rojer
Micah Uetricht
Nicha Ratana-Apiromyakij
Liza Featherstone
Belén Fernández
Benjamin Kunkel
Chris Maisano
Gavin Mueller
Karen Narefsky
Kate Redburn
Corey Robin
Shawn Gude
Cyrus Lewis
Jennifer Pan
Daniel Patterson
Max Thorn

Bhaskar Sunkara
Politics, Culture
First issue
Winter 2011
United States
Based in
New York

Jacobin (magazine)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Publisher Bhaskar Sunkara

Categories Politics, Culture
Frequency Quarterly
Circulation 7,500
First issue Winter 2011
Country United States
Based in New York
Language English

Jacobin is a quarterly "magazine of culture and polemic"[1] based in New York. Its self-styled raison d’être is as a "leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture". The publication began as an online magazine released in September 2010,[2] but expanded into a print journal later that year.[3] Jacobin has been described by its publisher as a radical publication, "largely the product of a younger generation not quite as tied to the Cold War paradigms that sustained the old leftist intellectual milieus like Dissent or New Politics."[4]

The New York Times ran a profile of Bhaskar Sunkara, the founding editor and publisher of Jacobin in January 2013, commenting on the publication's unexpected success and engagement with mainstream liberalism.[5] In a 2013 article for Tablet Magazine, Michelle Goldberg discussed Jacobin as part of a revival of interest in Marxism among young intellectuals.[6]

Earlier in 2013, "Jacobin Books" was announced, a partnership with Verso Books and Random House.[7] A collection of essays by Jacobin contributors is also slated to be published by Henry Holt and Company in 2014. "Class Action: An Activist Teacher’s Handbook," produced in conjunction with the Chicago Teachers Union's CORE Caucus and Jacobin was distributed to trade union activists in the sixteen cities in the United States and Canada.[8]

Prominent Jacobin contributors include Bob Herbert, Yanis Varoufakis, and Hilary Wainwright.

Jump up ^ "About". Jacobin. Retrieved 2014-06-19.
Jump up ^ "Bookforum". Bookforum. Retrieved 4/1/2011.
Jump up ^ "Boston Review".
Jump up ^ "No Short-Cuts: Interview with the Jacobin". Idiom magazine.
Jump up ^ "A Young Publisher Takes Marx Into the Mainstream". New York Times.
Jump up ^ Michelle Goldberg. "A Generation of Intellectuals Shaped by 2008 Crash Rescues Marx From History’s Dustbin". Tablet.
Jump up ^ Verso. "Jacobin Books series".
Jump up ^ Jacobin. "Class Action: An Activist Teacher’s Handbook".
External links[edit]
Official website
"A Young Publisher Takes Marx Into the Mainstream", Jennifer Schuessler, The New York Times, 20 January 2013
Boston Review on Jacobin
"New York literary magazines – start spreading the news", Hermione Hoby, The Observer, 5 January 2013

Thursday, July 24, 2014

NATHANIEL MACKEY: Outstanding Poet, Critic, Scholar, Editor, Teacher, and Literary Innovator Wins Prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize

(b. 1947)

Nathaniel Mackey wins $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize
By Ron Charles
May 7, 2014
Washington Post
(Photo credit:  Nina Subin. Courtesy of New Directions)

Nathaniel Mackey has won this year’s Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. The $100,000 lifetime achievement award — one of the richest literary prizes is the world — is given annually by the Poetry Foundation, which publishes Poetry magazine.

Mackey, 66, has served as chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and now teaches creative writing at Duke. For decades he has been publishing poetry and prose, including a series of novels under the title “From A Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate.” His 2006 collection “Splay Anthem” won a National Book Award.

In a statement released Tuesday, Poetry magazine editor Don Share said, “The poetry of Nathaniel Mackey continues an American bardic line that unfolds from Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ to H.D.’s ‘Trilogy’ to Olson’s ‘Maximus’ poems, winds through the whole of Robert Duncan’s work and extends beyond all of these. In his poems, but also in his genre-defying serial novel (which has no beginning or end) and in his multifaceted critical writing, Mackey’s words always go where music goes: a brilliant and major accomplishment.”

Mackey described himself as “shocked” at the news. “I was at a skate park watching my 10-year-old son skateboarding,” he said. “The last thing I expected was to get news of winning a literary award. And then the surprise, a kind of disbelief, gave way to feeling very happy, of course, about the appreciation and the recognition of my work the award represents.”

Leading poets and scholars in America were quick to celebrate Mackey’s recognition.

U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey said, “It’s wonderful to see Nathaniel Mackey receive this award. It is evidence of the great diversity in American poetry — and a sure sign that it’s thriving.”

The poet Edward Hirsch, who serves as president of the Guggenheim Foundation, called Mackey “a leading African American experimental writer, who has developed a dramatic improvisational style, a poly-vocal lyricism.” Praising the way he “blurs generic boundaries,” Hirsch said, “I would call him a poet of ongoingness involved in a kind of spiritualist or cosmic pursuit.”

Robert Casper, head of the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress, described Mackey as “one of our country’s great lyric experimenters, able to weave a multiplicity of phrases and voices into a song of spiritual reckoning.”

New Directions, a small, august press in New York, has published four of Mackey’s books, including his most recent collection, “Nod House” (2011). A new poetry collection called “Blue Fasa” will be published next May.

Jeffrey Yang, an editor at New Directions, said, “Mackey’s work is like putting a quarter in a jukebox, and the song that emerges is like nothing you’ve ever heard. His poetry feels like it exists in a parallel universe. The influence of the deep history and rhythms of jazz and world music jumps out at you immediately, but then the many other levels of his poems sink in and take you into a very unique poetic space that is in conversation with other cultures and arts. To me, he’s like a revered elder (but is too young to be one!) and carries on the modernist tradition of pushing the boundaries of the art.”

Mackey will officially receive the Ruth Lilly Prize at a ceremony at the Poetry foundation in Chicago on June 9.

(Photo credit Nina Subin. Courtesy of New Directions)


Nathaniel Mackey
Contemporary American poet

Nathaniel Mackey was born in Miami, Florida, in 1947, and grew up, from age four, in California. He is the author of five chapbooks of poetry, Four for Trane (Golemics, 1978), Septet for the End of Time (Boneset, 1983), Outlantish (Chax Press, 1992), Song of the Andoumboulou: 18-20 (Moving Parts Press, 1994), and Four for Glenn (Chax Press, 2002); five books of poetry, Eroding Witness (University of Illinois Press, 1985), School of Udhra (City Lights Books, 1993), Whatsaid Serif (City Lights Books, 1998), Splay Anthem (New Directions, 2006), and Nod House (New Directions, 2011); and an ongoing prose work, From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, of which four volumes have been published: Bedouin Hornbook (Callaloo Fiction Series, 1986; second edition: Sun & Moon Press, 1997), Djbot Baghostus’s Run (Sun & Moon Press, 1993), Atet A.D. (City Lights Books, 2001), and Bass Cathedral (New Directions, 2008); the first three of these have been published together as From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate: Volumes 1-3 (New Directions, 2010). He is also the author of two books of criticism, Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing (Cambridge University Press, 1993; paper edition: University of Alabama Press, 2000) and Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005). Strick: Song of the Andoumboulou 16-25, a compact disc recording of poems read with musical accompaniment (Royal Hartigan, percussion; Hafez Modirzadeh, reeds and flutes), was released in 1995 by Spoken Engine Company. He is editor of the literary magazine Hambone and coeditor, with Art Lange, of the anthology Moment’s Notice: Jazz in Poetry and Prose (Coffee House Press, 1993). His awards and honors include the selection of Eroding Witness for publication in the National Poetry Series, a Whiting Writer’s Award in 1993, election to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets in 2001, the National Book Award for Splay Anthem in 2006, an Artist’s Grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in 2007, the Roy Harvey Pearce/Archive for New Poetry Prize in 2007, the Stephen Henderson Award from the African American Literature and Culture Society in 2008, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2010. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, and teaches at Duke University, where he is the Reynolds Price Professor of English.

More Praise…

“He is the Balanchine of the architecture dance.”

— David Hajdu, The New York Times Book Review on Nathaniel Mackey

“In both Song of the Andoumboulou and 'Mu,' Mackey describes the music he hears––its history, players, sounds. But more often than not he transposes the music he hears into words, channeling the spirit, re-incarnating it into the English language.”
— Travis Nichols, Stop Smiling on Nathaniel Mackey's Nod House

Whatsaid Serif
by Nathaniel Mackey
City Lights Books, 1999

by Kofi Natambu
Ishmael Reed's KONCH magazine
February, 2000

As we know from both ancient and contemporary lore the gift of song is our greatest link to the massive forcefield we call music. Its material agent is sound and its expressive/structural foundation is language--that always powerful and redemptive reminder of the human capacity for the transformation as well as transmutation of existential being. Intimately aligned with language is the medium of poetry which derives its energy and sense of identity from the frontiers of language itself bringing those who read and listen to it heavily encoded messages from the frontlines of consciousness. It is this consciousness that extraordinary poets evoke when they literally and figuratively weave and interweave their markings with that of past encrypted forms and symbols. A consciousness not of origins but of memories and desires tracing and tracking their myriad narratives thru the broken and spiralling corridors of time. These poets provide us with tangible histories of that which cannot be eclipsed but often remains both tantalizingly elusive and mundane. At this intersection of the quotidian and the sublime lies the concrete magic of poetry.

One of our most useful and profound guides to this consciousness that seeks and speaks the language of philosophical possibility as melodic song and rhythmic grace is Nathaniel Mackey, a writer of astonishing clarity and precision who never sacrifices the visceral yet subtle emotion that the struggle for the minute "nuances of truth" always brings. Mackey, a critically acclaimed and much respected literary editor (Hambone) as well as writer of poetry and prose fiction forms, is a veteran professor of literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has for the past two decades been engaged in an epic, painstaking and exhilarating quest for a simultaneously mythic, gnostic and historical understanding of how we, "a rough draft of human being" as Mackey puts it, are inextricably linked to the Andoumboulou, a failed earlier form of human being in Dogon (West African) cosmology. In Mackey's view of this mythology we are in fact the Andoumboulou or rough draft.

Through the textural renderings of this experience as inscribed and encoded in words transformed by short line positionings and rhythmic displacements Mackey works to return language 'back' to the rasps and outpourings of tonality found in Dogon funeral rituals where rebirth, renewal and thus the eternal possibilities of redemption and reconciliation can flower and assert themselves. In Mackey's creative and imaginative ruminations this on-going quest contains the seeds of fulfillment, a quenching of the thirst for existential awareness and social community--but not without recognizing the historically informed, hardwon and bluesbased nature of this struggle. This is where harmony attempts to enter the musical and linguistic universe (omniverse?) for Mackey. Consider this section from 'Song of the Andoumboulou: 20':

I was the what-sayer.
Whatever he said I would
say so what.
Boated whether
we came by train or by
bus, green light
loomed on the horizon.
Where we were might've
been the moon...

survival egged us on, a
bird made of tin
pressing its beak
to the smalls of our
backs. Spectral
This while on our
way to Ouadada,
vowed we'd
let nobody turn us
around, thought we
saw Dadaoua. To the outer
principalities of Onem we were
brought, bought,
on blocks, auctioned

It was a train we were on,
peripatetic tavern we
were in, mind unremittingly
elsewhere, words meaning
than the world they
pointed at, asymptotic
tangent, Atht it was called...
Sophic rail we
stood at listening.
was on the jukebox, "To Be"
Spooked flutes hollowed
us out,
sophic not-ness...South, more
news of slaughter. Something
we saw we hoped we only
imagined we saw. "They
kill us,"
Mbizo yelled...

It is precisely in such stark and spectral circumstances that narratives, narrators and metaphysical wanderings become linked to a much broader and panaromic perception and even understanding(s) of the 'meaning of experience.' What Mackey provides is a linguistic and graphic mapping of the journey across the interior and exterior terrains of history as consciousness. In the spaces between utterance and 'communication' lies one's own rendezvous with destiny-- a destiny that we make as it is shaping and transforming us. Through this portal of reality, language allows us to glimpse how and why passages of time and space are both created and accessed. What the poet does is to speak and write that which remains unspoken and unwritten but is nevertheless alive. In this way gnosis, semiosis, and mythos meet and crossfertilize each other in order that humanity (the Andoumboulou) can make itself heard, seen and known. This is the crossroads that the blues singers and Jazz musicians speak of and express thru the languages of their particular mediums. Mackey's epistemology is steeped in this notion of tradition-as-contemporary function. As a result what comes through in his work are intensely lyrical evocations of this epistemological approach in motion:

Song of the Andoumboulou: 23
--rail band--

Another cut was on
the box as we pulled
in. Fall back though we
did once it ended,
of a Dove" sung so
sweetly we flew...
The Station Hotel came
into view. we were in
Bamako. The same scene
glimpsed again and
again said to be a
As of a life sought
beyond the letter,
preached of among those
who knew nothing but,
at yet
another "Not yet" Cerno
Bokar came aboard, the
elevens and the twelves locked
in jihad at each other's
throats, bracketed light
lately revealed, otherwise

Ultimately these poetic holographs of life culled from markings and inscribed gestures found in the signage of Time are on-going intertextural evidence of our collective existence on the shores of memory and desire. From this centered space the Andoumboulou re-discover that earth which they have been told about many times in the past. It is Mackey's musical rendering of language that allows them (us?) to be both seen and heard. So sayeth the eternal practice of the poet as what-sayer.

Bio Note

Online Works
MACKEY @ PennSound

poetry foundation

Nathaniel Mackey at MLA: Audio and photos from Mackey's December 2002 reading and discussion at the MLA
"Cante Moro" (essay)


Song of the Andoumboulou: 23 from Postmodern Culture, 1995
Phrenological Whitman from Conjunctions, 1997
Song of the Andoumboulou: 48 from Web Del Sol/Facture
Sound and Severance from Callaloo, 2008
Nathaniel Mackey Reading on UCtelevision, 2008
About the Author:
Chris Funkhouser on Nathaniel Mackey's Recent Work, Winter 1994
Peter O'Leary's "Some Ecstatic Elsewhere," EBR, 1995
Paul Naylor's "The 'Mired Sublime' of Nathaniel Mackey's Song of the Andoumboulou," Postmodern Culture, May 1995
An Interview with Nathaniel Mackey conducted by Chris Funkhouser, 1995
Special Issue of Callaolo on Nathaniel Mackey, Spring 2000
J. Edward Mallot's "Sacrifical Limbs, Lams, Iambs, and I Ams: Nathaniel Mackey's Mythology of Loss," Contemporary Literature, 2004
Luke Harley's"Music as prod and precedent: Nathaniel Mackey's niggling at the limits of language," in Jacket 32, 2007
Norman Finkelstein's "Nathaniel Mackey and the Unity of All Rites,"Contemporary Literature, 2008
On Strick: Song of the Andoumboulou 16-25 (CD, with Hafez Modirzadeh

EPC page by Katie Price, June 2010

Nathaniel Mackey
b. 1947

Born in Miami and raised in Southern California, poet, novelist, editor, and critic Nathaniel Mackey earned his BA from Princeton University and his PhD from Stanford University.

Mackey cites poets William Carlos Williams and Amiri Baraka, in addition to jazz musicians John Coltrane and Don Cherry, as early influences in his exploration of how language can be infused and informed by music. In a 2006 interview with Bill Forman for MetroActive magazine, Mackey addressed the relationship he seeks between music and his own poetry: “I try to cultivate the music of language, which is not just sounds. It’s also meaning and implication. It’s also nuance. It’s also a kind of angular suggestion.”

Mackey is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Nod House (2011), the National Book Award-winning Splay Anthem (2006), Whatsaid Serif (1998), and Eroding Witness (1985), which was chosen for the National Poetry Series. He has published several book-length installments of his ongoing prose work, From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, beginning with Bedouin Hornbook in 1986. David Hajdu described the prose project as “not simply writing about jazz, but writing as jazz” in a 2008 New York Times Book Review piece on the fourth volume in Mackey’s series, Bass Cathedral (2007). Hajdu characterized the movement of language in the volumes as “kinetic and also contemplative, elegiac and mercurial, sometimes volatile.” The first three volumes of Mackey’s series were published together by New Directions in 2010. A recording of Mackey’s work Strick: Song of the Andoumboulou 16-25 was released in 1995 by Spoken Engine Company, with musical accompaniment by Royal Hartigan and Hafez Modirzadeh.

Mackey coedited Moment’s Notice (1993) with Art Lange, and American Poetry: The Twentieth Century (2000) with Robert Hass, John Hollander, Carolyn Kizer, and Marjorie Perloff. Mackey has broadcast jazz and world music as a DJ on local noncommercial radio since the late 1970s, an endeavor he describes as similar to that of bringing together journal issues during his long tenure as the editor of Hambone magazine: “You segue, you juxtapose, you mix,” he noted in the MetroActive interview. Mackey’s critical work includes Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing (1993) and Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews (2005). His many honors and awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts; the Roy Harvey Pearce/Archive for New Poetry Prize; and the Stephen Henderson Award from the African American Literature and Culture Society. From 2001 to 2007, he served as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Mackey taught for many years at the University of California, Santa Cruz and is currently the Reynolds Price Professor of Creative Writing at Duke University.

Discover this poet’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.


As If It Were “This Is Our Music”
Day After Day of the Dead
Eye on the Scarecrow
More poems by Nathaniel Mackey

Nathaniel Mackey
Miami , FL
Chancellor 2001-2007

Poet and novelist Nathaniel Mackey was born in 1947 in Miami, Florida. He received a BA degree from Princeton University and a PhD from Stanford University.

His books of poetry include Nod House (New Directions, 2011); Splay Anthem (2006), which won the 2006 National Book Award in Poetry; Whatsaid Serif (1998); Song of the Andoumboulou: 18-20 (1994); School of Udhra (1993); Outlantish (1992); Eroding Witness (1985), which was selected for the National Poetry Series; Septet for the End of Time (1983); and Four for Trane (1978).

He is also the author of an ongoing prose work, From A Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, of which four volumes have been published: Bass Cathedral (New Directions, 2008), Atet A. D. (2001), Djbot Baghostus’s Run (1993), and Bedouin Hornbook (1986), the first three of which are collected in From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate: Volumes 1-3 (2010).

The poet Robin Blaser has called Mackey’s work “a brilliant renewal of and experiment with the language of our spiritual condition and a measure of what poetry gives in trust—‘heart’s/meat’ and the rush of language to bear it.”

Also a critic and literary theorist, Mackey is the author of Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing (1993). He is the editor of American Poetry: The Twentieth Century (2000, with Carolyn Kizer, John Hollander, Robert Hass, and Marjorie Perloff) and Moment’s Notice: Jazz in Poetry and Prose (1993, with Art Lange). He also edits the magazine Hambone. In 1995, Strick: Song of the Andoumboulou 16-25, a compact disc recording of poems read with musical accompaniment, was released.

Nathaniel Mackey has received numerous awards including a Whiting Writer’s Award and a 2010 Guggenheim fellowship. He is the Reynolds Price Professor of English at Duke University and served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2001 to 2007. Mackey currently lives in Durham, North Carolina.


Well now we know. I’d like to thank the judges for honoring my work with this award. To be chosen by such a distinguished group makes it all the more an honor. I’d also like to thank my publisher, New Directions, for publishing the book, in particular my editors, Barbara Epler and Jeffrey Yang for their enthusiastic, indeed rhapsodic response to the manuscript two years ago. Further, I’d like to thank Jeffrey for the extraordinary care he gave the book through every phase of production.

For me, it’s an especially resonant pleasure to be selected for an award of which William Carlos Williams was the first recipient. Williams was my first initiator into modern poetry and he became an abiding influence and presence, beginning with Pictures from Brueghel and Patterson, which I read as a teenager in the 1960s. His insistence that we have to go back to the beginning, find ground, and correlate on a new ground, has long stayed with me.

If I may, I’d like to read a passage from the end of Splay Anthem:

This award allows me to think that the poem’s “we” is more inclusive than I thought. I appreciate that. So again, my thanks to the panel of judges, and the National Book Foundation, and all of you. Thank you.

Nathaniel Mackey
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Born    1947
Miami, Florida
Citizenship    American
Alma mater    Princeton University;
Stanford University
Genres    Poetry

Nathaniel Mackey is an American poet, novelist, anthologist, literary critic and editor. He is Professor of English at Duke University and a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. Mackey is currently teaching a poetry workshop at Duke University.

He has been editor and publisher of Hambone since 1982 and he won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2006.[1] In 2014, he was awarded a Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.[2]


1 Biography
2 Poetry
3 Fiction
4 Criticism and editing
5 Awards
6 Resources
7 External links


Nathaniel Mackey was born in 1947 in Miami, Florida. He obtained his B.A. from Princeton University and his PhD from Stanford University. He taught and lived in Santa Cruz from 1979 to 2010. He is currently a professor at Duke University.


Mackey's books of poetry include Four for Trane (1978); Septet for the End of Time (1983); Eroding Witness (1985), which was selected for the National Poetry Series; Outlandish (1992); School of Udhra (1993); Song of the Andoumboulou: 18-20 (1994); Whatsaid Serif (1998); Splay Anthem (2006) and a chapbook Outer Pradesh (2014).

"...Mackey's series of improvisatory jazz-inspired fictions locates a ground between invention and listening that he defines as the source of culture itself. All culture, for Mackey, is a form of listening to what "we" are collectively improvising."
Barrett Watten[3]

Mackey's poetry combines African mythology, African-American musical traditions, and Modernist poetic experiment. His several ongoing serial projects explore the relationship of poetry and historical memory, as well as the ritual power of poetry and song.


Mackey has published four volumes of an ongoing prose project entitled, From A Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate: Bass Cathedral (2008), Atet A. D. (2001), Djbot Baghostus's Run (1993) and Bedouin Hornbook (1986).

Criticism and editing

Mackey is the author of Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing (1993), an influential book of literary theory, and more recently of Paracritical Hinge: Essays, Talks, Notes, Interviews (2004). He has edited the avant-garde literary journal Hambone for more than 15 years, and co-edited Moment's Notice: Jazz in Poetry and Prose with Art Lange(1993).


2006 National Book Award, Poetry, for Splay Anthem[1]
2007 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award
2010 Guggenheim Fellowship


^ Jump up to: a b "National Book Awards – 2006". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-04-08.

(With acceptance speech by Mackey, essay by Megan Snyder-Camp from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog, and other materials.)

Jump up ^ Charles, Ron (May 7, 2014). "Nathaniel Mackey wins $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 May 2014.

Jump up ^ One Year Plan: Post 36: 7/17/07 Watten's piece is called: "Great Books 1–10 + 2: Thumbnail Algorithms"

External links

Mackey's page at The Academy of American Poets
Mackey's EPC author page
Groovedigit's Mackey page
Author Page at Internationales Literatufestival Berlin Mackey was a Guest of the ILB ( Internationales Literatufestival Berlin / Germany ) in 2005
"Add-Verse" a poetry-photo-video project Mackey participated in

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid aka Paul D. Miller On Music, Multimedia, Philosophy, Cultural Revolution, and the 21st Century Global Village

PAUL D. MILLER aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid


Paul D. Miller aka DJ SPOOKY is a composer, multimedia artist and writer. His written work has appeared in The Village Voice, The Source, Artforum and The Wire amongst other publications. Miller’s work as a media artist has appeared in a wide variety of contexts such as the Whitney Biennial; The Venice Biennial for Architecture (2000); the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany; Kunsthalle, Vienna; The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and many other museums and galleries. His work New York Is Now has been exhibited in the Africa Pavilion of the 52 Venice Biennial 2007, and the Miami/Art Basel fair of 2007. Miller’s first collection of essays, entitled Rhythm Science came out on MIT Press 2004. His book Sound Unbound, an anthology of writings on electronic music and digital media was recently released by MIT Press in

Miller’s deep interest in reggae and dub has resulted in a series of compilations, remixes and collections of material from the vaults of the legendary Jamaican label, Trojan Records. Other releases include Optometry (2002), a jazz project featuring some of the best players in the downtown NYC jazz scene, and Dubtometry (2003) featuring Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Mad Professor. Miller’s latest collaborative release, Drums of Death, features Dave Lombardo of Slayer and Chuck D of Public Enemy among others. He also produced material on Yoko Ono’s recent album Yes, I’m a Witch. Read about his Eco-Artist Retreat project in Southeast Asia, The Vanuatu Pacifica Project.

Photo Courtesy and Copyright Danielle Levitt.

DJ Spooky aka Paul D. Miller is the executive editor of ORIGIN Magazine and is a composer, multimedia artist, editor and author. His DJ MIXER iPad app has seen more than 12 million downloads in the last year. In 2012-2013 he is the first artist-in-residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC starting this fall. He's produced and composed work for Yoko Ono, Thurston Moore, and scores of artists and award-winning films. Miller's work as a media artist has appeared in the Whitney Biennial; The Venice Biennial for Architecture, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany; Kunsthalle, Vienna; The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and many other museums and galleries. His book Sound Unbound, an anthology of writings on electronic music and digital media is a best-selling title for MIT Press. He has been featured everywhere from Elle to CNN to SyFy.

Miller's deep interest in reggae and dub has resulted in a series of compilations, remixes and collections of material from the vaults of the legendary Jamaican label, Trojan Records. Other releases include Optometry (2002), a jazz project featuring some of the best players in the downtown NYC jazz scene, and Dubtometry (2003) featuring Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Mad Professor. Another of Miller's collaborations, Drums of Death, features Dave Lombardo of Slayer and Chuck D of Public Enemy among others. He also produced material on Yoko Ono's recent album Yes, I'm a Witch.

DJ Spooky's Rebirth of a Nation was commissioned in 2004 by the Lincoln Center Festival; Spoleto Festival USA; Weiner Festwochen; and the Festival d'Automne a Paris. It was the artist's first large-scale multimedia performance piece, and has been performed in venues around the world, from the Sydney Festival to the Herod Atticus Amphitheater, more than fifty times. The DVD version of Rebirth of a Nation was released by Anchor Bay Films/Starz Media in 2008.

DJ Spooky's multimedia performance piece Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica was commissioned by BAM for the 2009 Next Wave Festival; The Hopkins Center/Dartmouth College; UCSB Arts & Lectures; Melbourne International Arts Festival; and the Festival dei 2 Mondi in Spoleto, Italy. With video projections and a score composed by DJ Spooky, performed by a piano quartet, Terra Nova: Sinfornia Antarctica is a portrait of a rapidly transforming continent.

In August 2009, DJ Spooky visited the Republic of Nauru in the Micronesian South Pacific to do research and gather material for The Nauru Elegies: A Portrait in Sound and Hypsographic Architecture., a collaboration with artist/architect Annie Kwon, first presented at Experimenta in Melbourne, Australia in February 2010. In January 2010. Miller was commissioned by German radio to write the composition “Terra Nullius”.

In 2011, Miller released a graphic design project exploring the impact of climate change on Antarctica through the prism of digital media and contemporary music compositions that explored the idea of "acoustic portraits" of Antarctica entitled "The Book of Ice" (Thames and Hudson/Mark Batty Publisher). The Book of Ice is includes an introduction by best selling author and quantum physicist Brian Greene, author, The Elegant Universe. The Book of Ice is a multi-media installation, a music composition for string quartet, and a book, and it has been included in the 2011 Gwangju Biennial, by Korean architect Seung H-Sang and Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

Miller is currently a contributing editor to C-Theory and the Executive Editor of Origin Magazine, which focuses on the intersection of art, yoga and new ideas. He continues his globe-trotting series of live events; playing at festivals from France to Japan to Mexico City; performing solo, with chamber groups, and with orchestras; and giving talks at prominent universities and conferences. He has most recently featured at The Economist “Year in 2012” conference, and for Syfy’s “Let’s Imagine Greater” Igniter web series.

“DJ Spooky cannot be called just a DJ. He is a very accomplished composer. But these days, DJ's are the ones who are bringing fresh sounds to the music world. In fact, they are creating a new spatial music. They are the space transformers of the universe.”

– Yoko Ono in Origin Magazine, Nov/Dec. 2011

“DJ Spooky's new project is the result of an artist literally driven to the end of the earth to investigate a cause of alarm and wonder, and to report back to us in the comforts of a theater.”

– Josef Woodard/Santa Barbara News-Press (review of Terra Nova)

“The Secret Song is the welcome return to recording by one of its most mercurially intelligent musicmakers. It may also be the only concept recording of the 21st century that can be considered crucial listening.”

– All Music Guide, Oct. 7, 2009

“Talk to 35-year-old New Yorker Paul D Miller for too long and you start to feel like a dimwit. This man is as brainy as a Mensa meeting, sharp as Zorro's sword, funny as Falstaff. He is Einstein with a better haircut, a streetwise black Tolstoy, a revved-up renaissance man for the digital age, obsessed with art, information and digital technology.”

- Grant Smithies – Sunday Star Times – Aukland, NZ Nov. 6. 2005

“DJ SPOOKY. Arguably no one is more responsible for propagating and embodying the idea of the deejay as "artist" than DJ Spooky, whose ambitious, elaborate, often hypnotic soundscapes have been notable as much for their eclectic imagination as for their post-modern intellectualism. Both those qualities pervade Spooky's latest collection, "Dubtometry" (Thirsty Ear), which reconfigures and remixes recent deejay-jazz collaborations with jagged breakbeats and hallucinatory dub effects courtesy of the Mad Professor and Lee Perry.”

-- Chicago Tribune, 2/13/04

// Paul D. Miller Biography [doc]
// Short Bios and Quotes [doc]


// German Interview on
// Italian Interview with Donata Marletta from Digicult

DJ Spooky receives National Geographic’s 2014 Class of Emerging Explorers Award

Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky has been selected by The National Geographic Society as part of the 2014 class of Emerging Explorers, a group of 14 visionary, young trailblazers from around the globe whose innovative ideas and accomplishments are making a significant difference in the world.


Dark Rye/Whole Foods in dialog with DJ Spooky

In celebration of it's new magazine, Whole Foods asked Dj Spooky to share his thoughts on contemporary art, design, and if course, music. 

Their new magazine is video based. Check 'Em out!

Featuring DJ Spooky

“Rebels are alive. In past centuries, rebels fought against everything and everyone - today, more than everything and everyone, rebels shine. Yes, rebels shine: reaching for infinity, striving to surpass all limits, to outdo themselves and their own art, character and wit. To shine into infinity is not a small matter: it is the substance of rebels.”

Sponsored by Hogan Rebel & Directed by Giorgio Arcelli Fontana. 

DJ Spooky performs with his DJ Mixer iPad App.
Origin Magazine

Paul D. Miller is Executive Editor of Origin Magazine, a progressive Artist owned and operated periodical that comes out every two months.

Check us out!

데이터를 문화로!!!
DJ Spooky Residency: Seoul Institute of the Arts
Paul D. Miller aka Sj Spooky is
Artist in Residence at Seoul Institute of the Arts 2013-2014

Free Download: The first Limited Edition Album from DJ Spooky's residency at the Metropolitan Museum

Out now on Jamendo:

DJ Spooky Seoul Residency Trailer (VIDEO):

Published on March 21, 2014
DJ Spooky at LA MOMA / Culturehub.
Video Trailer.

More at
More at

Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky at REFEST 11.30.2013
from DJ Spooky 3 months ago / Creative Commons 

This is the live-mix of a work in progress showing of "Seoul Counterpoint" a collaboration between DJ Spooky, CultureHub and the Seoul Institute of the Arts. This is the capture of the whole show that was livestreamed.

Video courtesy of CultureHub (


DJ Spooky concert live between Seoul Institute of the Arts and La Mama/Culture Hub in NY on the Internet featuring two live ensembles. One, at Seoul Institute of the Arts guided by Professor Kang Un-il, the other in NY featuring Sound Impact Ensemble. 

The concert is cached at

"Silent film scores were grandiloquent, meant to heighten what we saw on screen. Mr. Miller's score, by contrast, deflects our responses, then alters them. A hip-hop drum beat pulses. (It sounds African and urban American.) A wash of industrial sound is joined by bells and cymbals; a dissonant violin; blues fragments. These are the sounds of history and racial complexity that Griffith tried to suppress."
--Margo Jefferson, New York Times, July 8, 2005

"Arguably no one is more responsible for propagating and embodying the idea of the deejay as "artist" than DJ Spooky, whose ambitious, elaborate, often hypnotic soundscapes have been notable as much for their eclectic imagination as for their post-modern intellectualism."
-- Chicago Tribune

"This man is as brainy as a Mensa meeting, sharp as Zorro's sword, funny as Falstaff. He is Einstein with a better haircut, a streetwise black Tolstoy, a revved-up renaissance man for the digital age, obsessed with art, information and digital technology."
--Sunday Star Times – Aukland, NZ

Village Voice Blogs Interview: June 09
Trace Magazine Blog Interview: July 09

Beta Trailer for DJ Spooky's Rebirth of a Nation

Notes for Paul D. Miller's “Rebirth of a Nation” - remix of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film “Birth of a Nation.”

By Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid
Travel. Big picture small frame, so what’s the name of the game? Symbol and synecdoche, sign and signification, all at once, the digital codes become a reflection, a mirror permutation of the nation…. Where to go? What to do to get there?

Sometimes the best way to get an idea across is to simply tell it as a story. It’s been a while since late one autumn afternoon in 1896 Georges Méliès was filming a late afternoon Paris crowd caught in the ebb and flow of the city’s traffic. Méliès was in the process of filming an omnibus as it came out of a tunnel, and his camera jammed. He tried for several moments to get it going again, but with no luck. After a couple of minutes he got it working again, and the camera’s lens caught a hearse going by. It was an accident that went unoticed until he got home. When the film was developed and projected it seemed as if the bus morphed into a funeral hearse and back to its original form again. In the space of what used to be called “actualités” – real contexts reconfigured into stories that the audiences could relate to – a simple opening and closing of a lens had placed the viewer in several places and times simultaneously. In the space of one random error, Méliès created what we know of today as the “cut” – words, images, sounds flowing out the lens projection would deliver, like James Joyce used to say “sounds like a river.” Flow, rupture, and fragmentation – all seamlessly bound to the viewers perspectival architecture of film and sound, all utterly malleable – in the blink of an eye space and time as the pre-industrial culture had known it came to an end.

Whenever you look at an image, there’s a ruthless logic of selection that you have to go through to simply to create a sense of order. The end product on this palimpsest of perception is a composite of all the thoughts and actions you sift through over the last several micro-seconds – a soundbite reflection of a process that’s a new update of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the German proto Expressionist 1920 film “Der Golem,” but this time it’s the imaginary creature is made of the interplay fragments of time, code, and (all puns intended) memory and flesh. The eyes stream data to the brain through something like 2 million fiber bundles of nerves. Consider the exponentional aspects of perception when you multiply this kind of density by the fact that not only does the brain do this all the time, but the millions of bits of information streaming through your mind at any moment have to be coordinated and like the slightest rerouting is, like the hearse and omnibus of Méliès film accident, any shift in the traffic of information can create not only new thoughts, but new ways of thinking. Literally. Non-fiction, check the meta-contradiction… Back in the early portion of the 20th century this kind of emotive fragmentation implied a crisis of representation, and it was filmakers, not Dj’s who were on the cutting edge of how to create a kind of subjective intercutting of narratives and times – there’s even the famous story of how President Woodrow Wilson when he saw the now legendary amount of images and narrative jump cuts that were in turn cut and spliced up in D.W. Griffiths’s film classic “Birth of a Nation” called the style of ultra-montage “like writing history with lightning.” I wonder what he would have said of Grand Master Flash’s 1981 classic “Adventures on the Wheels of Steel?”

Film makers like D.W. Griffith, Dziga Vertov, Oscar Michaux, and Sergei Eisenstein (especially with his theory of “dialectal montage” or “montage of attractions” that created a kind of subjective intercutting of multiple layers of stories within stories) were forging stories for a world just coming out of the throes of World War I. A world which, like ours, was becoming increasingly inter-connected, and filled with stories of distant lands, times and places – a place where cross cutting allowed the presentation not only of parallel actions occurring simultaneously in separate spatial dimensions, but also parallel actions occurring on separate temporal planes – in the case of Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” four stories at once – and helped convey the sense of density that the world was confronting… Griffith was known as “the Man Who Invented Hollywood,” and the words he used to describe his style of composition -“intra-frame narrative” or the “cut-in” the “cross-cut” – staked out a space in America’s linguistic terrain that hasn’t really been explored too much. Griffith’s films were mainly used as propaganda – “Birth of a Nation” was used as a recruitment film for the Ku Klux Klan at least up until the mid 1960’s, and other films like “Intolerance” were commercial failures, and the paradox of his cultural stance versus the technical expertise that he brought to film, is still mirrored in Hollywood to this day.

But if you compare that kind of flux to stuff to Dj mixes, you can see a similar logic at work: it’s all about selection of sound as narrative. I guess that’s travelling by synecdoche. It’s a process of sifting through the narrative rubble of a phenomenon that conceptual artist Adrian Piper liked to call the “indexical present:” “I use the notion of the ‘indexical present’ to describe the way in which I attempt to draw the viewer into a direct relationship with the work, to draw the viewer into a kind of self critical standpoint which encourages reflection on one’s own responses to the work…”

To name, to call, to upload, to download… So I’m sitting here and writing - creating a new time zone out of widely dispersed geographic regions – reflect and reflecting on the same ideas using the net to focus our attention on a world rapidly moving into what I like to call “prosthetic realism.” Sight and sound, sign and signification: the travel at this point becomes mental, and as with Griffith’s hyper dense technically prescient intercuts, it’s all about how you play with the variables that creates the artpiece. If you play, you get something out of the experience. If you don’t, like Griffith – the medium becomes a reinforcement of what’s already there, and or as one critic, Iris Barry said a long time ago of Griffith’s “Intolerance”: “history itself seems to pour like a cataract across the screen…”

Like an acrobat drifting through the topologies of codes, glyphs and signs that make up the fabric of my everyday life, I like to flip things around. With a culture based on stuff like Emergency Broadcast Network hyper edited new briefs, Ninja Tune dance moguls Cold Cut’s “7 Minutes of Madness” remix of Eric B and Rakim’s “Paid in Full” to Grandmaster Flash’s “Adventures on the Wheels of Steel” to later excursions into geographic, cultural, and temporal dispersion like – contemporary 21st Century aesthetics needs to focus on how to cope with the immersion we experience on a daily level – a density that Sergei Eisenstein back in 1929 spoke of when he was asked about travel and film:“the hieroglyphic language of the cinema is capable of expressing any concept, any idea of class, any political or tactical slogan, without recourse to the help of suspect dramatic or psychological past” Does this mean that we make our own films as we live them? Travelling without moving. It’s something even Aristotle’s “Unmoved Mover” wouldn’t have thought possible. But hey, like I always say, “who’s counting?”

Uploaded on Oct 2, 2007:

DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, internationally recognized musician, writer, and conceptual artist, recently performed at the Dallas Museum of Art in celebration of the exhibition Societe Anonyme: Modernism for America. Before his performance, he spoke with Museum staff about the influence of artist Marcel Duchamp on his work and career.

Uploaded on Feb 27, 2008:

DJ Spooky (Paul Miller) talks about the history of media and thoughts about media in culture. He discusses and demonstrates the unexpected side effects of free speech, law, and copyright while showing the power of remixed art. The future and meaning of remix culture is discussed.

(From lecture/performance in 2008 at the University of North. Carolina):

DJ Spooky in 2008

DJ Spooky
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Background information
Birth name    Paul D. Miller
Also known as    That Subliminal Kid
Born    1970 (age 43–44)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Genres    Electronica, nu jazz, dub, reggae, illbient, trip hop
Occupations    Disc jockey
Music producer
Years active    1996 – present
Labels    Asphodel Records, Thirsty Ear, Universal Studios, Synchronic
Associated acts    Dave Lombardo

Paul D. Miller (born 1970), known by his stage name DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid, is a Washington DC-born electronic and experimental hip hop musician whose work is often called by critics or his fans as "illbient" or "trip hop". He is a turntablist, a producer, a philosopher, and an author. He borrowed his stage name from the character The Subliminal Kid in the novel Nova Express by William S. Burroughs. He is a Professor of Music Mediated Art at the European Graduate School[1] and is the Executive Editor of Origin Magazine .


1 Career
1.1 Other work
2 Discography
3 References
4 External links
4.1 Interviews


Spooky began writing science fiction and formed a collective called Soundlab with several other artists.

In the mid-1990s, Spooky began recording a series of singles and EPs. His debut LP was Songs of a Dead Dreamer. Spooky contributed to the AIDS benefit albums Offbeat: A Red Hot Soundtrip (1996) and Onda Sonora: Red Hot + Lisbon (1998) produced by the Red Hot Organization. Riddim Warfare (see 1998 in music) included collaborations with Kool Keith and other figures in indie rock like Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore.

He returned in 2002 with Modern Mantra. That same year saw the release of Optometry, a collaboration with avant-jazz players Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Guillermo E. Brown and Joe McPhee. In a classical vein, he collaborated with the ST-X Ensemble in performances of the music of Iannis Xenakis.

DJ Spooky collaborated with Ryuichi Sakamoto on projects including The Discord Symphony. The concert and album were released as an enhanced CD containing both a full audio program and multimedia computer files. It features spoken-word performances by Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Patti Smith, David Sylvian, DJ Spooky, David Torn, and Bernardo Bertolucci.

He collaborated with Iannis Xenakis on the recording of Kraanerg, with the STX-Ensemble in 1997.

2005 saw the release of "Drums of Death", DJ Spooky's CD based on sessions he recorded with Dave Lombardo of Slayer. Other guest artists include Chuck D. of Public Enemy and Vernon Reid of Living Colour. The record was co-produced by Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto.

DJ Spooky joined the 9th[2] [3] and 11th[4] annual Independent Music Awards judging panel to assist independent musicians' careers. He was also a judge for the 3rd Independent Music Awards.[5]

DJ Spooky has said that much of his work "deals with the notion of the encoded gesture or the encrypted psychology of how music affects the whole framework of what the essence of 'humaness' [sic] is... To me at this point in the 21st century, the notion of the encoded sound is far more of a dynamic thing, especially when you have these kinds of infodispersion systems running, so I'm fascinated with the unconscious at this point."[6]

Other work

His work as an artist has appeared in a variety of contexts such as the Whitney Biennial; the Venice Biennale; the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany; Kunsthalle, Vienna; The Andy Warhol Museum; Paula Cooper Gallery; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and many other museums and galleries. In 2007 his work appeared in the Africa Pavilion in the 52nd Venice Biennial. This remix of music from Africa was also distributed freely online, and promoted by the blog Boing Boing. "You give away a certain amount of your stuff, and then the cultural economy of cool kicks in," DJ Spooky said.[7]

In August 2009, DJ Spooky visited the Republic of Nauru in the Micronesian South Pacific to do research and gather material for a project in development, with a working title of The Nauru Elegies: A Portrait in Sound and Hypsographic Architecture.[8]

DJ Spooky's multimedia performance piece Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica[9] was commissioned by BAM for the 2009 Next Wave Festival; the Hopkins Center for the Arts/Dartmouth College; UCSB Arts & Lectures; Melbourne International Arts Festival; and the Festival dei 2 Mondi in Spoleto, Italy.

DJ Spooky's Rebirth of a Nation was commissioned in 2004 by the Lincoln Center Festival;[10] Spoleto Festival USA; Wiener Festwochen; and the Festival d'Automne a Paris.

In 2010, Miller formed The Vanuatu Pacifica Foundation, a contemporary arts organization dedicated to exploring dialog between Oceania and the rest of the world.


Main article: DJ Spooky discography
Jump up ^ DJ Spooky / Paul D. Miller Faculty page at European Graduate School and is the Executive Editor of Origin magazine (Accessed: June 4, 2010)
Jump up ^ MicControl[dead link]
Jump up ^ "". Retrieved 2012-02-08.
Jump up ^ "11th Annual IMA Judges. Independent Music Awards. Retrieved on 4 Sept. 2013.
Jump up ^ "Independent Music Awards – Past Judges". Retrieved 2012-02-08.
Jump up ^ "ªªHyperdub¬¬¬¬¬Softwar". 2004-07-03. Retrieved 2012-02-08.
Jump up ^ Kirsner, Scott (2009). Fans, Friends & Followers: Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age. Boston, MA: CinemaTech Books. p. 99. ISBN 1-4421-0074-5.
Jump up ^ "The Nauru Elegies: A Portrait in Sound and Hypsographic Architecture". Retrieved 2012-02-08.
Jump up ^ "Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica". 2010-05-11. Retrieved 2012-02-08.
Jump up ^ "Rebirth of a Nation". 2005-07-08. Retrieved 2012-02-08.

External links:

Official website
Sound Unbound site
Rhythm Science site
"SonarText" by DJ Spooky in 21C
DJ Spooky at the Internet Movie Database
The Vanuatu Pacifica Foundation


DJ Spooky on SYFY Channel: Imagine Greater
Azadi: Dj Spooky Shows Support For Iranians' Freedom Quest
2008 interview with DJ Spooky at Some Assembly Required
"Blurring the Boundaries with DJ Spooky," Bowdoin Magazine profile
Bad at Sports podcast interview
DJ Spooky talks The Secret Song
2001 interview with Roy Christopher