Archives for category: African-American Art

Chicago physician and art collector, Dr. Daniel S. Bergen is responsible for  introducing me to two artists that are now essential research guide and sources of inspiration. There have been entries about the artist Joesph Yoakum on this blog before and there are more to come. Last night I watched a doc called “Thornton Dial Has Something to Say.” The doc itself was irritating in its failure to ever let the camera rest before a full Thornton Dial work, the blinding halo of martyrdom that constantly hovers of filmmaker Celia Carey’s rendering of   Atlanta art collector Bill Arnett, and the scapegoating attacks against black intellectuals. However Mr Dial’s brilliance and importance in the history and contemporary landscape of art shined regardless. One thing he said will remain with me forever:

You can work for someone else’s freedom.

You can leave something for someone else’s child.

This is Life.

~Thornton Dial


The African origin of heroes, super and otherwise

July 7, 2011

by J.D. Jackson

[1]Historically, heroes – super-powered or not – come in all shapes and sizes. But what about colors? If we allow your standard history book and Hollywood small and silver screen productions to answer that question, the overall answer would be that the color is only one – white. Black heroes, it seems, do not exist.

But nothing could be further from the truth, especially for the sharp-witted student of world history or even popular culture. For such a person – though not without long-lived hard work and patience, intense study and research, and steel-spined dedication – would discover that throughout time immemorial, the Black hero – real and imagined – repeatedly appears and impacts culture as well as individuals who either welcome or disregard his or her heroic appearance, words and/or deeds.

Speaking of words, some scholars now agree that the very word “hero” comes from an African (Black) word and an African god. The 19th century scholar, Gerald Massey, states that the word “hero” comes from the Egyptian, “ma haru,” meaning “the typical warrior” or the “true hero.” Whereas another scholar states that the word “hero” is derived from the Latin name of a Greek word for the African god, Heru or Hor, who most Egyptologists call “Horus the hawk, the avenger.”

Interestingly enough, the hawk is an ancient and sacred bird of Africa, particularly Ethiopia, and what the late but legendary African world history scholar, Dr. Chancellor Williams, calls “Ethiopia’s oldest daughter, Egypt.”

Furthermore, based on the testimony of the Greek historian, Herodotus – often dubbed the “father of history” – and other scholars past and present, the very names – if not the very same gods, Greek then Roman, under different names – of the gods from Greek and Roman mythology came from, or were heavily influenced by, the ancient Egyptian and African mythology which predated them.

Those African-derived Greco-Roman gods would consequently serve as the backbone of today’s multi-billion dollar superhero comic book and movie industry.


Obatala, God of Yoroba mythology.

But the unmatched impact of Black heroes, real and fictional, would not stop in Greek and Roman mythology or even in Western society today. It would encompass both Asia and the Far East too. Whereas there is little, if any, hardcore evidence that King Arthur truly lived, in the Asian country of Saudi Arabia, there is evidence that over 1,500 years ago, there lived a courageous, 6th century, Black or Afro-Arabic warrior-poet and lover named Antar.

History has dubbed him the “father of knighthood … [and] chivalry” and “the king of heroes.” Greatly admired by the founder and prophet of Islam, Muhammad, he is still widely celebrated for his poetry and warrior spirit throughout the Arab world today.

Those African-derived Greco-Roman gods would consequently serve as the backbone of today’s multi-billion dollar superhero comic book and movie industry.

Then, in the Far East – China, specifically – during the 9th century, there lived a writer named Pei Xing. Although there is virtually no proof that he was Black, during the Tang Dynasty of said century he wrote what some have called “China’s first martial arts short story,” entitled “Kunlun Nu.” It means the “Negrito,” “little Negro” or “little Black” slave and its hero is an enslaved Black man who can fly and has incomparable martial arts skills – just as in the traditional Chinese martial arts films of the 1960s and ‘70s, if not in earlier and even in modern-day movies.

Then there’s Japan, where this ancient but little-known proverb was found: “For a samurai [warrior] to be brave, he must have a bit of Black blood.” Another version says: “For a samurai to be brave, he must have half Black blood,” meaning one of his parents must be Black.

We also find in Japan a noted Black warrior who historians have called “the paragon of military virtue,” a Japanese general and the first person to bear the Japanese title of sei-i tai shogun – meaning “barbarian-subduing generalissimo.” His name was Sakanouye Tammamura Maro, sometimes spelled Sakanouye No Tamuramaro.

Furthermore, let’s not forget about the only “thoroughly documented amazons in world history [3],” the women warriors of Dahomey, who were West African women often serving as the king’s bodyguards and who, unlike the Grecian “amazons” and the comic book “amazon,” Wonder Woman, truly lived.

And what about the beautiful, fictional or factual, Black warrior-queen, Califia – after whom the state of California is said to be named; or Nzinga, a lioness-hearted Angolan warrior-queen, who fought against the Portuguese for decades to keep them from enslaving her people? Nzinga lived. Xena, the warrior-princess, did not.

[4] [5]Nor let us ignore the Black steel-driving man, John Henry, who not only – according to legend – beat a steam-driving machine with his hammer in his hand, but – according to one scholar – serves as the model for both Superman and Captain America, who is called the “first avenger” in the trailer [6]for the movie to be released July 22.

Then there’s the Black Frenchman, Alexandre Dumas père, who wrote both “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo,” which both influenced fictional characters such as Mickey Spillane’s private eye, Mike Hammer, Ian Fleming’s super spy, James Bond, and characters created by the cowboy novelist, Zane Grey.

But what about the gun-slinging, outlaw-catching – catching between 3,000 and 4,000 outlaws – greatly feared, highly respected, often disguised, Black deputy marshal – serving for over 30 years – Bass Reeves? Says one scholar, Reeves may have served as the model for both the Lone Ranger and the Rooster Cogburn characters in the novel and movie, “True Grit.”

And let’s not fail to acknowledge the literal and literary hijacking, if not outright theft, by movie productions of African people’s centuries-long struggle against racial oppression, especially the Civil Rights Movement. Examples of such productions, if not parodies, are the “Planet of the Apes,” “Matrix” – an idea which allegedly was written by and stolen from a Black woman named Sophia Stewart – and “X-Men” movies.

And not one movie has been made about the late Henrietta Lacks, whose legendary cells are considered to be the world’s “first immortal cell lines [7],” reproducing on their own, adding billions to the coffers of medical researchers and research companies, and having been instrumental in the developments of the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization, gene mapping and the possible cure for cancer, if not AIDS. It’s her mutated cells – the He-La cells, if you will – that should be the subject of a major motion picture, or several of them.

Truly heroic, African-centered people should make movies about her, her poverty-stricken family and the other Black heroes and she-roes, real and imagined, that may or may not have been mentioned.

For they, like Robert F. Williams – the Black, Marine Corps trained weapons expert and stalwart, armed self-defense advocate and major but little-known Civil Rights Movement activist – clearly indicate that Black heroes do exist, should be studied and known and their lives should be written about and filmed for the small or silver screen by African people. It’s important for us to restore what the Afro-Puerto Rican bibliophile, Arthur Schomburg, once said “slavery took away” – our sense of humanity, self-worth and undying willingness to work together and improve the overall dismal plight of the world’s 1 billion-plus African (Black) people – as crafted by anyone’s hand, mind or faith – come hell or high water. Such people are the real heroes – walking, talking and doing superheroes.

This is dedicated to Brother Obadela Williams, who suggested research on this topic over 20 years ago.

© 2011 by J.D. Jackson, better known as Hawk, a priest, poet, soloist, journalist, historian and African-centered lecturer who can be reached at [8].

Posted on THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY VIEW, a national Black  Newspapers.

Hmmmm, how did Joseph Campbell manage to miss all this?

The Solar Flare Arkestral Marching Band Fundraising Campaign has begun!

Check out our promotional video. I hope it inspires you to give us a little kick!

Thank you for all of the support thus far!

And cli k here for a link to the site to see what kinds of goodies await you!

Thank You,

Sending much love from Outer Spae!




“If you find earth boring

Just the same old same thing

C’mon sign up with Outer Spaceways, Incorporated.”

~ Sun Ra


This happened at approximately 11am on Saturday
morning September 11, 2010:

I sincerely hope this video conveys a little bit of the magic generated from the Rich South High School Band, the band’s musical director, Mr. Douglas, and the wonderful arrangement of Space is the Place by Mr. Frederick Tapley. There are many thank yous to send out, and a great deal of work still to come. But I wanted to share this with the people who worked so hard, got SO WET, and made it happen. You had to be there, but it was a beautiful beautiful thing.

Thank you Rich South  H.S.M.B.

You bad!

“Outer space is a pleasant place A place where you can be free There’s no limit to the things you can do Your thought is free and your life is worthwhile Space is the place. ”

~ Sun Ra

Just one caveat: the audio is NOT mixed. At all.

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I am favoring speed over precision for these! Sorry about repeat images.
All images taken by Ivan Lozano.

Today is September 12, 2010. I am still in Chicago. The threewalls residency ended on Sept.6, but I could not go home without producing at least one March. Shannon Stratton, the executive Director of threewalls, and I knew it would be difficult when we took this project on, and we knew it would take time to create all of the relationships, do the research, make the calls, ask the favors and apply the pressures necessary to create a flash mob marching band. It just took one week longer than my residency! But we did it!

The weather for the past week has been sublime. Fall has descended upon Chicago. Every day last week, was sunny and cool – and then Saturday happened. Thunderstorms! Riding the train from the Howard stop of the Red Line to Cermak Chinatown, I watched the clouds grow darker, the rain fall heavier. I text messaged my Sound Supervisor, Ben Chaffee. Both of us were dubious, and yet steadfast and determined. There were way too many moving parts to this event (70 students, 3 school busses, 13 crew members, borrowed equipment, guest-visa on the residency!) to turn back now. Back and forth we text’d our hopes for a break in the rain. I twittered my anxiety and prayers to Sun Ra to my 5 followers. There was a tiny break were full pour turned into misty Drizzle – the Musical Director, the brilliant and ebullient Mr. Y. L. Douglas, ordered his marching band into position – sound and camera rolled! About 15 seconds into Space Is The Place, the sheets of rain started coming down. And the RICH SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL MARCHING BAND sang the spiral melody even louder; they marched and danced even more brilliantly.

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In that moment, Chinatown Square was The Place and The Space to inhabit. I am still awed and inspired by the dignity, professionalism and utter beauty of the Rich South High School Marching Band. We will certaily work together again. So please keep checking in for updates, post- residency blog entries, and announcements for more marches. Thank you threewalls. THANK YOU CHICAGO. I’ll be back.

Check back soon for more images!

A March for Sun Ra

will strike the planet earth!



2133 South China Place
Chicago, IL 60616-1536
Just off the Red Line – Cermak

The participants of this event sincerely hope you can join us to celebrate solar flares, immeasurable equations, Sun Ra, and the cosmos.
We also ask that you please not ask the participants when the event  will begin.
Please do not tell folks you do not know why you are there.
Please do not stand around expectantly waiting for the event to begin —
Simply enjoy your Saturday morning at Chinatown Square.
Trust us. When the solar flare strikes  you cannot miss it!

See you Saturday, and thank you so much for all your support.

Space is the Place (1973) written by Sun Ra
Arranged for Marching Band by Mr. Frederick Tapley
Musical Director: Mr. Y.L. Douglas
Featuring The Rich South High School Marching Band
Sound Supervisor: Ben Chaffee
Executive Producer: threewalls

Audio/Visual Crew:
Jessica Bardsley
Samuel Davis
Michael Gleason
Joe Grim
Shy Hamilton
Sharon Harrell
Ivan Lozano
Cauleen Smith
James Smith
and friends.

This project is funded in part by: UCIRA, UCSD Academic Senate and threewalls

solar flare #1

I have neglected the blog! A combination of transiency, spotty internet access, and  no time have kept me away. Apologies to loyal visitors!

There is much for me to share. I’m going to be firing off many many posts  this evening – and one VERY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

So please do keep checking back. In the meantime, check out the last object I made before leaving the threewalls studio.

Back in June, I made an exploratory trip to Chicago just to check out the scene before the residency officially began and to try amd make some contacts/alliances/sense of things.

One of the first indicators I got that this project might be viable was making contact with the great Edward Wilkerson – an AACM musician, composer, and all around pillar of the jazz community in Chicago. Mr. Wilkerson shared with me a story that has stayed with me and built itself into an object in my mind. He told me that though he never worked with Sun Ra, he was hired to make a recording for Alton Abraham, Sun Ra’s business partner and manager. He described showing up at the YMCA and wacthing Abraham tape a bunch of cardboard boxes together, stand them up in a circle, place a microphone in the middle, and then recording the musicians he’d hired to play inside of the giant cardboard ring around this microphone. (Wilkerson tells the story better – I hope to get his version on disc soon enough.)

The cardboard structure immediately suggested a sculpture to me. I am not a sculptor (as the images and video below surely reveal), but I was completed to make this object that Abrahams had created as a makeshift recording studio.

Once the things was done, Shannon Stratton and I stared at it. We watched Humo the Cat sniff around it, and then I decided that I wanted musicians to record inside of it. That will definitely happen on my next visit to Chicago. But we had to take the thing down so that the next threewalls artist, Kelly Kaczynski , could install her show.

Here are some images. Shannon was very amused by my wrestling with 50 lbs of cardboard and made a very embarrassing video of me being clobbered. Thankfully that video has not surfaced. Below is the dignified version of events.



Future recording studio... Alton II- Wilkerson Transmission

I’m breaking my own rule. The Carousel Microcinema was formed to share the time-based  media art of artist whom I admire. Now threewalls has graciously invited me to screen some of my past works for the Chicago community. Since the turnout for the first Chicago Carousel was so great, I’m hesitant to change course now. I hope you can make it. It’s free! Click over to the Carousel Microcinema site to read more!







Come Join us.


click here for more information