For those of you who don’t know, the name of this event is taken from the song “Resist Psychic Death.” It is one of my favorite Bikini Kill songs and I even have a vague memory of one of my old bands covering it. Although sung by a white woman, the words “psychic death” remind me of the character Pecola Breedlove in Toni Morrison’s first novel The Bluest Eye. To make a short story even shorter, Pecola is born a dark-skinned black girl into a racist, misogynist, violent world that eventually drives her to insanity. Now, I am not saying that mental illness is equivalent to psychic death. I know that’s not true. The culprit in the book isn’t insanity, the culprit is hatred and its internalization. We live in an ugly and dysfunctional world and we all carry that ugliness and dysfunction around inside of us. Our mission in this life is to prevent self-destruction, to prevent our own psychic deaths–and then to lend a hand to others so that they can do the same. Often, it’s just as simple as speaking publicly from your experience just so that other people like you realize they are not alone in their thoughts and experiences.

And then there are those among us who actually experience physical death. Premature, violent, unjust physical death. In the last year, we’ve seen the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement here in the U.S. in the response to the killings of unarmed black men and the lack of accountability for their deaths. Of course, this predicament isn’t new and my zine was definitely written in reaction to the limited expectations placed on black people solely because of our skin color. Like the Afro-Punk movement, I focus on freedom of expression for black people–but admittedly, this goal has seemed frivolous to me when compared to the myriad other challenges faced by black American communities. But on the other hand, look at how acceptable black expression and representation has been newly confined in the wake of the shooting of Trayvon Martin in particular. Now, black men can’t wear hoodies without feeling the weight of suspicion on their backs? Respectability politics are in increased effect in black communities and in its own little way, “Shotgun Seamstress" was always meant to reject those kinds of confines.

I attempt to use a Xerox copy music fanzine to resist stereotypical conceptions of blackness. It doesn’t feel like much, but I promise, the desire to redefine ourselves, to redefine blackness, to surprise people with the scope of our self-expression, was always central to the project.

Black Women In Rock: If Sister Rosetta Tharpe is too old school for you, then maybe Santigold flips your wig. Either way, sisters have been part of rock music for as long as guitar feedback’s been loud

Forget what it sounds like for a minute, let’s consider the spirit of rock and roll: Rebellious. Energetic. Vocal. Independent. Driven. Unapologetic. Powerful. They’re characteristics I could attribute to damn-near every sister I know.
In fact, my personal Who’s Who of Rock and Roll is stacked with bomb Black women. Betty Davis. Grace Jones. Tina Turner. Aretha Franklin. Nona Hendryx. Poly Styrene. Joan Armatrading. Joyce Kennedy… and that’s just 1976-77.
So why do so many people go out of their way to marginalize or flat-out disregard Black women as both pioneers and torchbearers of rock? Why are we so indifferent to the fact that more than a few African-American women strapped an instrument to their back and helped carry the genre from the fields to the church to the juke joint to the charts to a multimillion-dollar industry?
Probably because someone told us it wasn’t ours and we chose to believe it. They said it was devil’s music, so we cast it out. We let it go because someone gave it white skin, a penis, and the green light to cross boundaries that Black people couldn’t. And in so doing, they convinced the world that our pioneers didn’t deserve equal recognition, equal exposure or equal ownership.
Damn shame.

Q: When some people hear the term “Afro-Punk”, they can’t imagine the amalgamation of the two genres. I, on the other hand, don’t find the term to be far-fetched as most, if not all, music derived from African culture. Define “Afro-Punk” to those who may not be familiar.

TK: AfroPunk is the name of a documentary I was featured in some time ago. You should definitely check it out. It’s goal was to identify a subset within a subculture in the way that ‘Beyond the Screams’ brought light to the contributions of Latinos in the hardcore scene in Chicago but on a national level. The term existed before the film as a description of an aesthetic or energy. In regards to genre; song structure, arrangement and instrumentation defines musical genre not race. So I would never discuss it in those terms. Now, if someone was doing the actual work to create this genre I would expect it to be some afrobeat/grindcore amalgamation it probably exists but that isn’t what the term as a pop culture phenomenon/lifestyle brand refers to currently. The festival highlights artists out side of the stereotype of African-American interests and culture. That is the purpose of the platform as described on their site; the music is an aspect and not genre specific. I feel you hinting at the rejection of blackness where rock music is concerned and that’s real. In the early punk rock London scene there was a whole ‘tribal’ movement. It’s clear that American indigenous and African culture inspired the aesthetic though folks rarely make the connection. That parallels to the erasing of the roots of rock n roll here in the states

MH: I read somewhere that you were a big fan of R&B and singers like Billie Holiday and Stevie Nicks. How do you go from those genres and styles to the type of music you make with SLS?

AB: That is a good question. I admire those singers because they are unique. Their voices don’t sound like the normal voice. That’s why they inspire me. And I’m hoping that maybe there is someone out there who will like the way my voices sounds. My own uniqueness. That’s what I bring to the band.

As far as getting into this genre of music, I give credit to my step father and my brothers for that. R&B was what I initially wanted to do. I was going to go that way, but I thought I’ll just be heaped in with a bunch of other African American girls doing R&B. I wanted to do something different, and be something different. So I sort of followed my brother’s footsteps and developed a love for it and liked how I wrapped my vocals around the whole genre.

MH: As a woman in metal, are you finally seeing a new level of acceptance that certainly wasn’t there a decade ago? Are women in metal breaking through that barbed wire ceiling?

AB: I think they are. You can’t go anywhere now without seeing things like ‘the Hottest Chicks in Metal’ or chicks in metal. It’s everywhere now. Which is weird, because if you look back you have pioneers like Wendy O. Williams. She was doing it way before it was the IN thing. Joan Jett, Lita Ford, all these chicks in rock. It’s sad that it’s just now starting to be popular. It’s definitely coming up. You know the hot chicks playing metal.

MH: And that’s always the way it is too. They have to be hot or nobody is listening.

AB: Yeah. And that’s sad, because you don’t have to be hot. You can still be an amazing female singer or musician and be great at it. Why can’t it simply be chicks that rock? That’s always been my beef. There’s a lot of young girls that look up to what we do, and I don’t want them to feel, oh you have to be sexy and wear a short skirt and fishnets to rock a guitar and be a cool musician. That’s just not true. You can still be in there with a t-shirt and jeans and a beanie on your head and rock it hard. I guess the world is just backwards sometimes. (laughs)

Black Women Rock is a living tribute to Betty Davis — one rocking Black woman.

Davis, at one point married to legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, influenced his music and went on to create a sound and imagery all her own. An icon to pioneering Black rock figures ever since, Davis is still largely unknown. BWR is a reminder.

Moore says BWR is a tribute to the “amazing lights, so many Amazon women” who are not in the mainstream.

Brooklyn-based punk artist Tamar-kali, a BWR vocalist and guitar player, says the “ground breaking and self-defining music” of Davis parallels the lives of many of the BWR artists.

“I hope to continue the legacy of Nina Simone, Grace Jones, Betty Davis,” Kali told the Michigan Citizen. “So we can (understand) that iconography or imagery is in line with true artistry.”

BWR reminds us that though the path for Black women, artists and otherwise, can be daunting, it’s not crippling.

“Despite what some say, I believe Black women always have to fight a little bit harder. Have to love a little bit deeper. Have to stand a little bit stronger. We know how to make the best out of any bad situation. There is a collective experience that deep down we understand,” says Steffanie Christi’an of BWR, who attended the African-centered Aisha Shule/W.E.B. Dubois Prepatory Academy and Wayne State University.

Quote from “Where are the Black Female Rock Stars?”

To that effect, black female artists exhibiting more rebellious styles are consequently shunned by black audiences for being “too weird,” and ignored by other audiences as not being authentic rock musicians. This is where the Afro-punk movement comes in: a blindingly boisterous collection of musicians whose general style makes them “misfits of society.” However, in the eyes of many, their style of dress and sound simply makes them copycats of white musicians. In other words, with the argument that rock music originated with people of color, some believe that black females choosing to go the Afro-punk route are ultimately suppressing their African-American roots. This has created a Catch-22 of sorts, with black female artists wondering how to be seen as true rock musicians if their work is constantly pigeon-holed into other categories.

Where Are the Black Female Rock Stars? – Associated Content

This article is very well written, and thought provoking. It bluntly addresses a lot of the issues with being not only female, but also a Black person in the world of rock music.

(via blackwomenwhorock)

(via oddityofcommodity)