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â€œSuccess is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.â€?
Bad Boy of Art: David Hammons
10 Maya Angelou: The Voice of Our Time 17 Saul Williams: Rockstar
23 Dorothy Forever 27 Remembering Nelson Mandela
Editorâ€™s Letter Prime is a magazine designed for college African American girls. Itâ€™s purpose is to empower, uplift, and reflect on historic black icons of the past. The name Prime was chosen to because it represents a time of early womanhood; these girls are in the prime of their youth, and they are flourishing at this stage in life.
In the particular issue we shine light on a few influential figures of the past. First off David Hammons, the Bad Boy of Art. The elegant Maya Angelou, and how her voice and message still has an impact on all today. Saul Williams, the multi-talented rockstar. Dorothy Dandridge, the first African American nominated for an Academy Award. And last but certainly not least the late Nelson Mandela.
An Interview With
I can't stand art actually. I've never, ever liked art, ever. I never took it in school.
When i was in California, artists would work for years and never have a show. So showing has never been that important to me. We used to cuss people out: people who bought our work, dealers, etc., Because that part of being an artist was always a joke to us. When i came to New York, I didn't see any of that. Everybody was just groveling and tomming, anything to be in the room with somebody with some money. There were no bad guys here; so i said, "let me be a bad guy," or attempt to be a bad guy, or play with the bad areas and see what happens.
I was trying to figure out why black people were called spades, as opposed to clubs. Because i remember being called a spade once, and i didnâ€™t know what it meant; nigger i knew but spade i still donâ€™t. So i took the shape, and started painting it.
I just love the houses in the south, the way they built them. That negritude architecture. I really love to watch the way black people make things, houses or magazine stands in harlem, for instance. Just the way we use carpentry. Nothing fits, but everything works. The door closes, it keeps things from coming through. But it doesn’t have that neatness about it, the way white people put things together; everything is a thirty-second of an inch off.
That’s why i like doing stuff better on the street, because the art becomes just one of the objects that’s in the path of your everyday existence. It’s what you move through, and it doesn’t have any seniority over anything else. Those pieces were all about making sure that the black viewer had a reflection of himself in the work. White viewers have to look at someone else’s culture in those pieces and see very little of themselves in it.
Anyone who decides to be an artist should realize that it’s a poverty trip. To go into this profession is like going into the monastery or something; it’s a vow of poverty i always thought. To be an artist and not even to deal with that poverty thing, that’s a waste of time; or to be around people complaining about That. My key is to take as much money home as possible. Abandon any art form that costs too much. Insist that it’s as cheap as possible is number one and also that it’s aesthetically correct. After that anything goes. And that keeps everything interesting for me.
I don’t know what my work is. I have to wait to hear that from someone. I would like to burn the piece. I think that would be nice visually. Videotape the burning of it. And shoot some slides. The slides would then be a piece in itself. I’m getting into that now: the slides are the art pieces and the art pieces don’t exist.
If you know who you are then it’s easy to make art. Most people are really concerned about their image. Artists have allowed themselves to be boxed in by saying “yes” all the time because they want to be seen, and they should be saying “no.” I do my street art mainly to keep rooted in that “who i am.” Because the only thing that’s really going on is in the street; that’s where something is really happening. It isn’t happening in these galleries.
Doing things in the street is more powerful than art i think. Because art has gotten so....I don’t know what the fuck art is about now. It doesn’t do anything. Like malcolm x said, it’s like novocaine. It used to wake you up but now it puts you to sleep. I think that art now is putting people to sleep. There’s so much of it around in this town that it doesn’t mean anything. That’s why the artist has to be very careful what he shows and when he shows now. Because the people aren’t really looking at art, they’re looking at each other and each other’s clothes and each other’s haircuts.
The art audience is the worst audience in the world. It’s overly educated, it’s conservative, it’s out to criticize not to understand, and it never has any fun. Why should i spend my time playing to that audience?
Maya Angelou: The Voice Of Our Time
"I had to trust life, since I was young enough to believe that life loved the person who dared to live it.” That is how Maya Angelou recalls herself at 30, yet the statement holds true today. Angelou is alternately described as a “voice of our time” or a “legend” or any number of glowing designations, but the foundation for those accolades has been her ability to be supremely engaged, endowed with a power to participate in her life in ways that can only be called courageous. She is a formidable icon, 6 feet tall, with a speaking voice cadenced like an epic poem and a presence that evokes an aging African warrior queen. She is the woman who rarely took a pass, the one who forged ahead, challenged herself and changed the world in small and large ways for more than 80 years. It is hard to grasp how the great-granddaughter of a slave who was born poor in 1928 St. Louis managed to overcome circumstances and lead such a rich and triumphant life. Born Marguerite Ann Johnson (she changed her name decades later when she was a singer), she was only 3 when her parents split up, and she and her brother, Bailey, were shipped off to her paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, in Stamps, Ark. Those were the days of picking cotton and colored-only schools and occasional lynchings, but the children managed to thrive, reading books voraciously while being nurtured by a grandmother who ran a relatively successful general store. But life for young Angelou would change within a few short years. After moving back to St. Louis with her mother, 8-year-old Angelou was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. The girl confided what happened to her brother, who told the family. Mr. Freeman was arrested but spent only a day in jail; upon his release he was kicked to death, presumably by Angelou’s uncles. When the child learned that Mr. Freeman had been murdered, she had a revelation that she herself was the instrument of his death. She reasoned that her voice had killed him; had she not told of the crime, he might still be alive. She was resolutely mute for the next five years.
Why the Caged Bird Sings Angelou’s early life is chronicled in her most famous book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Following that initial (and critically well-received) book, Angelou wrote five more autobiographies, all detailing her varied careers as a dancer, singer, poet, actress, teacher, activist. There were plays, too, and poetry— some 30 titles in all. Throughout her work, themes of individual power resonate, with an emphasis on “equal pay, equal respect, equal responsibility for everyone.” She emerged as a role model for resilience and fierce self-respect, for candor, hard work and self-reliance. Angelou attributes much of her ability to rise to the occasion to the people who told her it was possible— and that she could prevail.
After young Angelou was molested, she and her brother returned to live with their grandmother in Stamps. “I was loved tremendously by my grandmother— my father’s mother—she raised me,” Angelou says. “My grandmother used to braid my hair the way old black ladies still braid girls’ hair. And my hair was big and very, very curly; she had her work cut out for her. She would braid my hair and she would say, ‘Sister, I don’t care what these people say about you must be a moron, you must be an idiot because you can’t talk. Sister, Momma don’t care. Momma know when you and the good Lord get ready, you are going to be a teacher, and you are going to teach all over this world.’ And at first I used to think, ‘this poor ignorant woman’ and then I thought, ‘well, maybe…’ ” Angelou pauses and laughs. “ ‘Maybe she sees something.’ ” It was that kind of care and love that Angelou eventually received from her glamorous mother, Vivian. Although Angelou undoubtedly felt abandoned in her early years, the relationship came full circle a few years later when she and her brother went to live with their mother in San Francisco. Vivian had married a successful but grounded man, Daddy Clidell, who owned apartment buildings and pool halls, and whom Angelou describes as “a man of honor.” Vivian had come into her own as well and became an unwavering supporter of her daughter.
“When I was about 22, my mother said to me, ‘You know, baby, I think you are the greatest woman I have ever met.’ And my mother owned hotels and diamond rings and things that seemed in another world from where I had grown up. And she said, ‘You are very intelligent and very kind—and those qualities don’t always go together. You don’t look down on anybody.’ And she said, ‘You are going to be somebody.’ Those are the ways one is released, one is liberated into living and living with some esteem and some certitude that one is deserving of better treatment, and good treatment, and is not deserving of being miscalled and mishandled and misused.” ‘Go Get It’ This powerful sense of self helped Angelou every step of the way. There were other mentors, too, including a teacher and family friend, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, who encouraged her to speak again and introduced her to a world of books. And a brother, who may have helped her the most at the beginning. “My brother, Bailey, was smaller than I. He was two years older but took after my mother’s people who were very short, and I took after my father’s people who were tall.
My grandmother was over 6 foot, and I am 6 foot. My family came closest to making a genius when they made Bailey. Bailey loved me as well, and Bailey told me, ‘Don’t mind these people that they laugh at you and call you dummy. You are very, very intelligent. You are smarter than any of them. You are not as smart as I am.’ And he was definitely right, so I did not question that. In fact, he encouraged me to read. I don’t know how he managed this, but we left Arkansas—I was 13, he was 15—and we went to San Francisco to my mother’s. Within two months, Bailey had found Philip Wiley, Thomas Wolfe, Aldous Huxley—we had read every book in the black school in Stamps—and [in San Francisco] he brought these books to me— modern writers. Bailey was brilliant. By the time he was 20 he was on drugs, so he never lived up to what he had. I always commend and compliment him for being one of the great mentors of my life.” Aside from her mentors’ encouragement, Angelou also was driven toward growth and achievement. That and a basic demand for justice informed many of her career choices, starting with one she recalls from her teenage years.
“After an extended summer visit with her father, Angelou returned to her mother’s after school had already started. Because she was ahead of students her age, her mother said she could skip a semester if she got a job. “So I thought ‘OK, I want to be a streetcar conductor.’ I had seen women in the streetcars in their uniforms and moneychangers and caps with bibs, and I hadn’t noticed that they were all white. And I went down to apply for the job, and no one would even give me an application. I went then to my mother, and she said, ‘Do you know why?’ And I said, ‘Yes, because I’m a Negro.’ And she said, ‘Do you want the job?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And she said, ‘Go get it.’ ” Life on Her Terms Angelou’s mother told her to take a good book (“I was reading the Russian writers and loving it and being Russian almost and being dramatic”) and to stay at the office until after the secretaries left and return the next day before they arrived. “Well after about four days I really didn’t want it,” Angelou says. “Because they made snide remarks and it was rude. But I couldn’t go back to Vivian Baxter and tell her that they ran me away. After about two weeks, a man came out of the office and asked me to go in, and I went in. He asked me, ‘Why do you want the job?’ I said, ‘I like the uniform. And I like people.’ He asked me what experience I had. I lied like a fiend. I said I was a chauffeurette for Mrs. Annie Henderson in Stamps, Ark. That was such a lie. My grandmother had hardly ever even ridden in a car… but I got the job.” Although most of Angelou’s life has been an unbroken trajectory from one accomplishment to another, her early years as a young mother not long out of high school were exactly the opposite, including a desperate stint as a prostitute. Hitting bottom in the post-World War II years as an unmarried black woman should have been the end of the story, but Angelou managed to beat the odds with her bedrock of familial nurturing and self-esteem.
“I think I know that I deserve better,” she says. “And so I try for better. I’m never so put off that I would ever walk out of a place not having tried the best I could.” Her life as it unfolds throughout her memoirs charts the ups and downs most of us face, from broken marriages and financial pressure to worries about her much beloved son, Guy, but the backdrop is the extraordinary time in which she lived—and starred in, on occasion. Angelou succeeded at disciplines in which she had no formal training. She became what she needed to become to earn a living to rear her son. She succeeded to feed her boundless curiosity—and to navigate life on her own terms.
I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform. I write. I act. I perform.
Who I am and what I do seems to vary by mod, mood, and mode of expression. I write. I act. I perform. Most of the labels that are projected onto me are seldom how I would choose to refer to myself. Yet, regardless of how much I might dodge classification, the one label that I tote freely is that of being an artist. And it is the art of self expression that has heightened my experience on this planet and fueled my understanding of love, compassion, and humanity. Poet. I write poetry because it is the clearest and most direct expression of how I think. I take pride in being called a poet mostly because it feels like an ordination. I did not grow up thinking of myself as a poet, so it is an honor to be considered one. So far, Iâ€™ve written four books that fall under the category of poetry. For me, they chronicle my growth as an artist, friend, lover, father, son, and individual. My goal has never truly been to become an amazing poet, rather I have worked at becoming more expressive, thoughtful, and harmoniously balanced, and courageous enough to live my life as a poem. My writings simply chronicle my journey and vision. They are the residue of the work that Iâ€™m doing on myself. Performance. Acting, my first love as an artist, has allowed me insight into the nature of humanity. The many roles I have played, especially in theatre, exposed me to aspects of my own character before I even lived through enough experience to discover traits within myself. Through acting, I found an excuse to study everything from my own breathing habits, to the beats within a passage or poem, to the unexplored regions of my imagination. It taught me how to observe the distinction between someone who walks and leads with their head or chin versus someone who leads with their gut or groin. It grounded me in my voice and on stage and has helped me develop as a thinker and person Through it all I would say that performance is my favorite medium as an artist. Yet, I have become very particular about the material I perform, thus, I create. Most of my training as an artist is in the field of acting which makes sense considering that all the other stuff often just feels like a role Iâ€™m playing.
Music. I write music because I have found that I cannot rely on other artists, or the music industry to provide the release that I need from a days work, a night out, to inspire a mood, a movement, or simply explore the unsaid in ways that are important to me. I’ve sought to become self sufficient. In music I think of myself as an explorer participating in the construction of the soundscape of the new world that is being hatched out of our dreams, hope and visions of peace and harmony… that don’t necesarily mean my shit is soft though…
“Our Marilyn Monroe” 26
Dorothy Dandridge is often described as “OUR MARILYN MONROE.” I’ve never agreed with that statement. Dorothy Dandridge was our Dorothy Dandridge. Simple as that. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve met over the years who have never heard of this amazingly beautiful and talented woman. You wouldn’t believe how many Black women have entire Twitter and Facebook pages dedicated to Marilyn Monroe but have never seen or heard of the classic, Carmen Jones. While I’ve been told that, as a 90s baby, this says more about my generation’s disconnect from our history than it does about Dandridge, it still infuriates me. If anyone is unsure as to why we should pay homage to the screen legend, here are a few crib notes: Dandridge was the first Black woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Carmen Jones in 1954. she was also the first Black woman to grace the cover of Life Magazine. By breaking these barriers, she helped to pave the way for all Black actresses today in Hollywood. She was a one-of-a-kind actress and human being. There was always a certain innocence and vulnerability about her that made her authentic. You could see in her eyes just how much she loved being in front of that camera. Without Dandridge, there wouldn’t be a Halle Berry. Period.
Dandridge was Hollywood’s first Black female movie star and sex symbol. And yet, sadly, she left this world feeling that everyone had forgotten about her, including her own people. When Marilyn Monroe died, her popularity skyrocketed. Fifty one years have passed since her death in 1962, but she’s become ingrained in our pop culture and continues to live on through her merchandise, wax figures and movies, of course. Dandridge, however, is largely reduced to Black History Month remembrances. Many of us have even forgotten Halle’s major star turn in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, an early career production by none other than the ever-powerful Shonda Rhimes. As Dandridge once said, “If I were White, I could capture the world” and frankly, she was right. The world wasn’t ready for all that she had to offer; she was the right woman at the wrong time. It’s heartbreaking to think of what could’ve been had she lived in a different era. Who knows what else she could’ve conquered? I’ve always felt a deep connection to the tragic actress and I hope that more folks will come to understand that she was so much more than just a pretty face, or a “Black Marilyn.” Get to Netflix and discover Island in the Sun, Porgy and Bess and Tamango. Check out historian Donald Bogle’s definitive Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography. Let’s give our icon the flowers she should have gotten when she was breathing and make sure that future generations know her name!
Rememberin Nelson M 30
ng A Legend Mandela 31
1. His real first name is Rolihlahla. Mandela’s parents named him “Rolihlahla” which, in the Xhosa language, literally means “pulling the branch of a tree,” but more commonly translates as “troublemaker.” It was at school, that his teacher Miss Mdingane named him “Nelson,” in accordance with the custom to give all school children “Christian” names.
3. His first official act of civil disobedience was in protest of poor food. Elected to the Student Representative Council, at the University of Fort Hare Mandela resigns shortly after, aligning with students protesting the food quality, among other things. For leaving his post, Mandela is expelled. 4. He was married before Winnie.
2. He initially became interested in African history living with a chief. At 9, Mandela’s father died and Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo adopted him. In the chief’s house he begins to develop an interest in African history listening to the story of visiting elders. At 16, he participates in the traditional African circumcision ritual to mark his entrance into manhood. During the proceedings, Chief Meligqili, the main speaker at the ceremony, their land is controlled by White men.
On July 15, 1944 he married nurse Evelyn Ntoko Mase. That year he also officially joined the African National Congress. His ANC activities resulted in multiple arrests that ultimately strained his marriage. Additionally, Evelyn’s Jehovah’s Witness faith required political neutrality. In 1955, Evelyn, leaves Mandela while he is in custody for another arrest. They are officially divorced in 1958, and months later he marries Winnie.
5. He wasn’t the best student. Mandela himself admits he was a poor student and left the University of the Witwatersrand law school without graduating. Still, he completes his “articles”—a period of apprenticeship required to practice law. (He finally earned his law degree in 1988, while in prison,) 6. He started out strictly non-violent... ...but after The Sharpeville Massacre that reportedly left nearly 300 blacks injured and 69 dead at the hands of police, he co-founds an armed offshoot of the ANC dedicated to sabotage and guerilla war tactics to end apartheid. It’s called Umkhonto we Sizwe—“Spear of the Nation”. On this new tip, he sneaks out of the country for military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and to garner support for the ANC in England. 7. He spent 27 years in prison. Sentenced to life in prison for sabotage, Mandela spends 18 years at Robben Island, a prison five miles off the coast of South Africa, before being moved to Pollsmoor Prison, reportedly to enable easier communication between them and the South African government. During his term, his mother and son die. 8. He refused an early offer of release from prison. South African President P.W. Botha offers Mandela’s release in exchange for renouncing armed struggle; he said, no thanks.
9. He was released from prison by new South African President F.W. De Klerk.
15. Mandela’s birthday is officially “Nelson Mandela Day” in South Africa.
Once he succeeded president Botha, de Klerk announced Mandela’s release date February 11, 1990.
July 18, 2009 was declared “Mandela Day” to promote global peace and celebrate the South African leader’s legacy.
10. He shares a Nobel Peace Prize with de Klerk. In 1993, he and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to dismantle the country’s apartheid system. 11. De Klerk Served as Mandela’s Deputy. After he beat out President de Klerk and 17 other candidates in the nation’s first democratic election, de Klerk, who came in second, served as Mandela’s first deputy. 12. He’s been knighted nine times, in nine different countries. South Africa. Lesotho. Luxembourg. The Netherlands. Denmark. United Kingdom. Portugal. Norway. Sweden. 13. His current wife is also an activist. Mandela married former First Lady of Mozambique Graça Machel on his birthday in 1998. Machel was an education activist in the struggle to liberate Mozambique from Portuguese colonial rule; and was formerly married to Samora Machel who became the first president of Mozambique after independence. She continues to lead initiatives, and has racked up awards, for her advocacy and work to improve children’s access to education in Mozambique and other nations. 14. Mandela launched his 46664 HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign in 2002. Three years before his son’s death from the disease, Mandela launched the 46664 HIV/AIDS. The number “46664” is derived from his prison number “466” and the year 1964 when he was sentenced to life.