what would fela do-O!

December 6, 2006 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Activism, Black Folks, Culture, fela kuti, Health & Healing | 1 Comment

on sat., dec 2nd, nite*vision and i celebrated my b’earth day @ bam‘s sold out red hot + riot – the illest event featuring an allstar cast of diasporic & continental africans giving soulfull (and i mean soul-full) tribute to the life, music + spirit of fela anikulapo kuti (born olufela olusegun oludotun ransome-kuti).

red hot + riot is one of the many charitable collabos of the red hot organization‘s efforts to build proactive awarness to the pervasive pandemic, AIDS. (check out nite*vision’s post hi five: tribute to fela for a breakdown of the musical experience). the thing was a surprise, but also strange: why was the red hot + riot poppin’ off in bam, of all places in nyc? what’s so special about this weeked? wasn’t tryna be ungrateful, but soon enough all things were revealed. the day before was world a.i.d.s. day and…

as the hypnotic timbres -of shekere with electric bass, djembe with synthesizer – formed a bridge between entertainment and enlightenment, all who attended where ready for the images on the background displaying facts on how AIDS is (still) the clear and present danger realized from the last “media-raid” you may have encountered. statements like: “new york is the epicenter of the a.i.d.s. crisis in the u.s. brooklyn has the highest death rate of all boroughs flashed across the screen. what! brooklyn?…we’re in brooklyn right now, homie! cats wouldn’t even get up to dance to this music, what kind of reaction can we expect as a result of leaving the concert? once “water no get enemy” ceases to be the ringing melody in your head…what do you do?
just a few days ago, i had an interesting talk with a nigerian sister who was understandably upset about what she understood was the lack of commitment (or at least the media coverage) of africans helping africans. her frustrations are a natural extension of her own tireless projects -taking numerously, exhausting trips to work in community based clinics and founding a non-profit organization to combat aids in africa. this sister, a doctoral student of holistic healing, set the mission of her organization “to improve the health and well being of people through treatment, research, education, and program development that focuses on the integration of evidence-based traditional medicine with evidence-based modern medicine”.

her concern (well taken) was the lack of visibility of black folks, in the u.s. and other areas of the diaspora, taking more initiative in battle against aids, particularly on the continent. she stated that when you see documentaries and benefits, you mainly see white people helping and not enough of us. so throughout the concert, seeing the images, replying the unanswered questions that sister uchenna asked, and just steadily vibing on fela’s revolutionary “stylie”, i couldn’t help (nor would i) but to wonder: a cat like this – known for take it to a corrupt gov’t in such a fearless way; a cat whose own mother was defenstrated to her death by the very hands of that gov’t; a cat changed his middle name to anikulapo means “i carry death in my pouch”; a lover of liberating truths and a devout default pan africanist -who would quote marcus garvey, chieck anta diop, and james brown in the same measure -and; hmm….what would fela do?

a formidable lover of his people, fela would contest any notion of apathy, while simultaneously calling out capitalists’ exploitation of people who have a.i.d.s. he might even “spit hot fire” on pharmaceutical companies and the “a.i.d.s. was created in a lab” hypothesis. whatever the case, it’s safe to say that he would be a vocal force in the solution to our aids problem. and while we can surely rely on artists -of all disciplines – to be on the forefront of spreading awareness about the multitude of worldly issues, scientists, teachers and social workers are definitely in the trenches of those battles. as a result of a.i.d.s.-related health complications, fela is no longer physically here. but please believe, his spirit is vibrantly working stride through the works of notable africans throughout the world. here is a working list africans (continent and diaspora) working in the vein of fela kuti spirit:

dr. uchenna egwuonwu, dr. roberto giraldo, j donkor, african services, dr. kamau kokayi, pro.me.tra, maurice iwu to name a few.

in 2005, pro-cultura, a poineering organization dedicated to creating “collaborative intiatives between the biomedical and traditional health” communities, coordinated: african healing wisdom: from tradition to current applications & research. The conference was developed with a mission “…to explore the uniqueness, wealth and complexity of african traditional medicines, as well as the potential role they could play in addressing some of the crucial health challenges of our era” . The conference also sought to explore the following questions:

1. What can African traditional medicines contribute to the prevention and control of infectious and chronic diseases, and how can such contributions be validated and enhanced?
2. What roles can traditional African health knowledge play in addressing issues of health disparity and inequity, both at home and abroad, and how can these roles be enhanced?

with this noble cause as a guiding light, the conference and beaconed of academics, healers and social workers throughout the world –all seeking solutions to some this common problem. the conference also drew attention to the importance of scientific validation of african traditional health knowledge while reinforcing the need to protect and sustain such indigenous knowledge.

in march of this year, africa first, organized the global summit on hiv/aids, traditonal medicine & indigenous wisdom in ghana.

its not a game. fela is still alive…


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  1. hey maurice the james brown tribute rminds me of our ancestors when they were not allowed to speak to each other except through song and dance the message is loud but only those in thestruggle would understand it and the physicial actions were only a distraction to keep attention away from the message his words were all wisdom and his performance was a beautiful camaflague only those who studied him would recieve the message he was preparing his community that would listen for today society he never wasted his multitalents he inspired he taught he guided and monumented himself while he was alive elvis could only be popular by the people that is paid to bring up his name annually but james brown is and will always be a universal household mentor we all cna relate to talking loud and saying nothing james would feed your mind and soul and emotions andfullfill any empty voids from a bad day at work to being unemployed or from heart broken to heart fulfilled he made or shall i say he enhanced my feelings of being black and proud say it loud i could go on and on about my feelings when i hear his music i have nver felt ashamed or embarrased whenever i heard any media negativity against his for i also remember james brown is a human being he was never lost even when he was relaxed off stage living a normal civillian life the godfather of soul is alive in all of us goodnight!!!!!!!!!

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