Apr 8, 2009

Some people talking about the 22nd century

I've been unable to find the original 1971 release of this song by Exuma, a band headed by Macfarlane Gregory Anthony Mackey, the Bahamian artist better known as Obeah Man, but I can't help but feel like he wrote this song knowing it would find other ways to land in the world:

Here as released in 1998 by Nina Simone:

And performed by Justin Bond last year. I'm pretty sure Our Lady J is playing the piano in this. There is a version of this on YouTube that makes me pee in my computer chair but the embedding is disabled:

I think the reason the song has been hitting so hard is that I recently re-read Bernice Johnson Reagons "Coalition Politics: Turning the Century." To be fair, she was talking about the 21st century, but what is a century, really? It's become a bedtime story I read to myself now. She has so much to say about the not-cute but totally necessary work of figuring out how to survive in this world together. About the work and the reckoning, keeping our shit fresh and belonging in the here and now--how we need to do that belonging and working in a way that throws us into the next century. About it being the right time to be alive, and about committing ourselves to our work in the world "each morning we do wake up and find ourselves alive." It's a necessary visit and revisit if you can find the whole piece:

"I want to talk a little about turning the century and the principles. Some of us will be dead. We won't be here. And many of us take ourselves too seriously. We think that what we think is really the cutting line. Most people who are up on the stage take themselves too seriously--it's true. You think that what you've got to say is special and that somebody needs to hear it. that is arrogance. That is egotism, and the only checking line is when you have somebody to pull your coattails. Most of us think that the space we live in is the most important space there is, and that the condition that we find ourselves in is the condition that must be changed or else. That is only partially the case. If you analyze the situation properly, you will know that there might be a few things you can do in your personal, individual interest so that you can experience and enjoy the change. But most of the things that you do, if you do them right, are for people who will live after you are long forgotten. That will only happen if you give it away. Whatever it is that you know, give it away, and don't give it away only on the horizontal. Don't give it away like that, because thye're gonna die when you die, give or take a few days. Give it away that way (up and down). And what I'm talkin about is being very concerned with the world you live in, the condition you find yourself in, and be able ot do the kind of analysis that says that what you belive in is worthwhile for human beings in genderl, and in the future, and do everything that you can to throw yourself into the next century. And make people contend with your baggage, whatever it is. The only way you can take yourself seriously is if you can throw yourself in tho the next period beyond your little meager human-body-mouth-talking all the time.

I am concerned that we are very short-sighted and we think that the issue we have at this moment has to be addressed at this moment or we will die. It is not true. It is only a minor skirmish. It must be waged guerrilla-warfare style. You shoot it out, get behind the tree so you don't get killed, because they ain't gonna give you what you asked for. You must be ready to go out again tomorrow and while you're behind the tree you must be training the people will be carrying the message forward into the next period, when they do kill you from behind the tree." --Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon

Here's BJR:

Yes and yes.