rachel kaadzi ghansah contact


In 1975, Muddy Waters told People magazine, “There’s enough blues to go around. I also feel so much love, how much love you have for black people. There’s a sense in which Philadelphia became a black beacon for me. You better figure out where you’re going to take care of her after she ages out.” [laughs].

I wanted to bring together the astoundingly brilliant people already thinking about this idea. My mom has sort of a punky personality. They would all tell my mom, “She’s not going to college. Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah has written for The Believer, The LA Review of Books, Transition and The Paris Review.

It was big in Philadelphia when I was growing up, we had Curve and Soul One, and in college, I wrote my first papers on Wild Style, Lee Quiñones, the FUN Gallery, and Lady Pink. And not just the women who are artists or authors. he was everything that you would want from your rock-and-roll star and also, more than that, from a cultural voice of your time. I was reminded that folks will show up for you like the Dancing Dolls, the cheer squad at Southern University, my mother’s alma mater. I’m thinking about your piece [“De origine actibusque aequationis”] on Basquiat and Rammellzee, Rachel Jeantel and Trayvon Martin, which also tells a story about black language — oral, written, and visual. Another thing that made Electric Lady particularly unique was that it was owned by a black artist during a moment when the right to creative autonomy was all but impossible for black musicians, who had little recourse for taking control of their own production or ownership, especially in the courts. Sign up for The Believer’s mailing list and get free essays, comics, interviews, and more, right in your inbox.

I think of myself as a writer, so for me, it is almost a trade, a skill, not this “artistic” process. That doesn’t address the fact that we don’t have good public schooling, that doesn’t address the fact that we’re dying of health disparities all over. Nichols installed the Roots there to record, and soon other young black musical vanguards followed suit: Erykah Badu, J Dilla, Common, and D’Angelo. But it is not lost on me that I had to pull this story hours before it was supposed to ship to the printers. The editors at Brooklyn Magazine said of Rachel’s writing, “if we wanted to compile a reading list of the best journalism in the last couple of years, we’d begin with basically all the work of Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah.” They can become a distraction from the work. Through these conversations with Kandis, I realized that certain things were occurring to both of us over and over again, and we both could see how they fit into this larger historical conversation of what happens to black women in America. It was Eddie Kramer, Hendrix’s mix engineer, who suggested he found a studio—a place where Hendrix could have some financial and artistic autonomy—rather than a club, which Kramer insisted was a waste of money. What is remarkable about it though is that with real devotion, black Philadelphia operates almost internally. We’re trained at this; we do this because of them. I would take a sponge bath in the bathroom.But I didn’t mind that, because the mural in the bathroom makes me feel like I’m going into another part of myself. It’s not about me as a writer, it’s about: Who authored my life? I recognized that what Audre Lorde said is real. He was a beautiful poet, and he also had a philosophical outlook that epitomized that generation. I want to wrap by talking about A Woman’s Work, which is happening this week! We could sit and listen to Rahsaan Roland Kirk, or talk about Bakhtin or Amiri Baraka or books or jazz. That is what matters most. What Jimi Hendrix did on the electric guitar, no one was doing—at least, no one we knew was doing. Lights are said to flicker, and Joe Strummer reportedly swore that a phantom guitar track appeared on a track the Clash were recording for Sandinista! Cold sweat, literally.

And breathing through those walls. I moved there when I was eight or nine from the cornfields of Indiana. And he said that many people say they feel Jimi’s presence in the studio. And he was restless, so you knew he would continue to evolve, and the ideas he expressed to me about creating a universal language through music were so hopeful. How do you think about this shift in landscape? I could see that there was this angry white sub-segment that was undergirding the ebullience of the Obama years. And I also knew people who had amazing stories, like Greg Tate’s mom.
She shaved her hair very short as a child, and she has never adhered to these ideas of a cultural monolith. Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah 112 Snaps When I was nineteen or so, Richard Nichols, a man who was more of a father to me than my own father was, invited me to Electric Lady Studios in New York to watch Amiri Baraka record one of his new poems. I was obsessed with Lyor Cohen.

Last month, Kandis and I made a zine of sorts for A Woman’s Work that retells Anna’s story, but it is also a dual text. When I write, I have the opportunity to say almost everything that’s on my mind, and if I’ve done an effective job as a writer, then perhaps there’s nothing else to say. You’ve referenced Meg from A Wrinkle in Time as one of your childhood heroes — and her “smart girl struggle of being perceived as both stupid and weird.” Can you talk about the sort of weird, smart kid you were? I did too.
One of my earliest literary memories is my sister going with my mom to see Octavia Butler read. Over the years, Richard had developed a quiet philosophy of freedom and self-determination and, with very little money, had somehow mentored and raised an informal village of rappers, singers, and musicians: Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, Santigold and Bilal. There is no one alive who is more protective of or enthralled by Electric Lady Studios. I can’t wait to see it.

Frederick and his young German lover called Anna “the Border State.” She was too Negro, too dark, too female to be of consequence to them, and yet, she supported his entire literary enterprise through her labors. This is about preservation, and also about what comes next.” Yes, I very much understood. By the time I was in South Carolina doing the groundwork for the Dylann Roof piece, it was so clear that Trump was going to happen. I looked at Rachel Jeantel, an 18-year-old girl who got up and said, “I matter.

It doesn’t end until it’s over,” which I think is the story of blackness in America. Let’s remember that Missy Elliott had to wade through hell to create her art. Instead it has continued to be a place where great American music is born. Hendrix’s performed wildness was borrowed from Little Richard and Chuck Berry, his quickness from Bo Diddley, and (from the man he might have admired most of all) his smoothness from Curtis Mayfield. What I was trying to do in that piece is say, “This could go on forever. Before Hendrix claimed the title, Ike Turner was a reigning master of the vibrato, and Hendrix’s playing and showmanship have traces of Turner, a violent man whose fists have all but erased what he could do with his fingers when they strummed a guitar. I think that weirdness is good.

Or thinking about Saeed Jones, a poet who is now writing his memoir, and the beautiful stories he has told me about his mother, who was a black Buddhist. The lights had cast red but the room felt frigid. Something for everyone interested in hair, makeup, style, and body positivity. To be very black, I mean, that’s the firmament of my mother’s household. That was also, perhaps not coincidentally, the day after Mercury retrograde ended. Why, even with the Cream or Eric Clapton I hear sounds I heard as a little bitty boy that I don’t own or have any rights to. This sort of exploitation was especially true for early blues musicians, the artists that Hendrix most admired as a young man—men and women who would literally sell their souls to play the music they loved.


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