Sunday, June 21, 2009


This is our time.

The first time I moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2000, what happened this past Saturday night could not have happened. A group of artists, professional, experienced, passionate, talented, committed and fired up, and united by our pan-African heritage got together and assessed a situation. The world is in a new millenium and history has seen fit to re-define not just what it means to be Black in America, but to re-define America itself in terms of its people of color. Society is different now. There are more dark skinned people in this country than there are white people. This is not a call to arms (necessarily) or a threat, it is a simple observation of empirical fact. America is a different place now. WE have changed. This is why BaseRoots has come together. It is time for us, as artists, as Black people, as Americans and as citizens of Portland, Oregon to take a more active role in the shaping of the world we live in. Saturday night we came together, united by culture, history, passion and a unique aesthetic energy, and accepted our responsibility and our mission. Let me be the first to say, it's scary as hell. There are times, however, when fear is cauterizing. It clears away dross, focuses energy and keeps the eyes on the prize. We have a lot of work ahead of us, yes, but this work is there because we have a grand purpose. And Saturday night we weren't united in fear that's for sure. Food was plentiful and music, laughter was overflowing as well as eager anticipation. How could they not be? Inside that room was over two hundred years of artistic experience...over two hundred years of LIFE experience. We had all come together for a common purpose. What did Jimi Hendrix say "Well, I stand up next to a mountain/ and I chop it down with the edge of my hand". Indeed.

Now of course, in the next few months we're going to have a period where the time for fancy words and lofty ideals is past. It is now time for us to roll up our sleeves, grab our lunch pails and do some dirty work. But my god, I looked around the room and I'll be damned if I didn't realize that we were all ready and more, able. Resources were shared and revelations were made. People talked about nuts and bolts, they talked about the bottom line, they talked about what the next steps are. Answers presented themselves and in the coming weeks, those steps will be taken. When they are, new objectives will arise and they too will be addressed.

I, personally, was terrified because this whole job is going to entail my being good at things that I've never been good at. Professional artists of commitment and experience are going to be looking to me for answers and I'm going to have to have them. But after Saturday night I realize something different, something more. The group of us are headed into one of the most exciting periods of our individual and collective lives. Why? Because what we're doing is not about us. It's big, baby, colossal. It is a hero's journey we're embarking on to be pursued with a hero's resolve. Ha ha, there I go with my fancy words again. Of course, anybody who knows me knows I'm just crazy enough to believe them. And Saturday night I was reminded that I'm not the only one.

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