It was a pleasure to hear you give the fall 2019 Tyrone Maurice Adderley lecture at MassArt last month. Your truth-telling has never been more necessary.
As soon as I heard the strains of John Coltrane filling the MassArt auditorium prior to your soundcheck, I knew we were in for a treat. Once again, you did not disappoint. You proved that Coltrane’s saxophone is the second-most expressive instrument — after the human voice.
Anyone who can weave together the philosophies of Aristotle and Plato with the music of Sly and the Family Stone (!) certainly gets my attention. You and I are almost the same age — OK, I’m a year older — but we both graduated from high school in 1970. So you’re smarter!
[My years in parochial school gave me a view of authority similar to that of your formative years, I’m betting.]
So when Sylvester (Sly) Stewart sang Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin), which hit No. 1 in February 1970, well, more than a great song, lyrically it was an eye-opening revelation to me:
Lookin' at the devil, grinnin' at his gun
Fingers start shakin', I begin to run
Bullets start chasin', I begin to stop
We begin to wrestle, I was on the top …
Stiff all in the collar, fluffy in the face
Chit chat chatter tryin', stuffy in the place …
* * *
Lookin' at the devil: The crypto-fascist in the White House [then and now]?
Grinnin' at his gun: A Platonic gun? Merely a copy or an idea of a gun?
Bullets start chasin’: A prediction of bullet time, as portrayed in The Matrix?
and my all-time favorite:
Stiff all in the collar, fluffy in the face: [Still hilarious! … Looking’ at you, AG William Barr …]
I will forever associate this couplet line with one of my bosses when I was a teenager. I wanted no part of that mentality in my life, ever.
* * *
At the beginning of my senior year in high school, I wanted to attend MassArt. But I wound up taking a different path, instead going to UVa in Charlottesville. Now, 50 years later, I’m taking courses at MassArt. Full circle.
So it turns out we have Charlottesville in common as well. I noted back in August 2017 that you were were there to bear witness, and bring love and justice, to the place where neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, white supremacists were leaving a slime trail on the Grounds with their tiki torches and hateful chants. You were there in downtown Charlottesville resisting hate when Heather Heyer was murdered, and inside the University Chapel the night before, during that nightmarish rally. I used to live downtown, right around the corner from the disputed, failed Confederate statue. Thank you for being there.
And Councillor West, thank you for also saving Zion in The Matrix series. [Ironically, there’s a place called Zion Crossroads, about 20 miles east of Charlottesville! What were the odds?] I sure hope that the Wachowskis cast you in yet another film, as they did with Hugo Weaving, maybe in an eventual sequel to Cloud Atlas. I’d pay to see that!
Dr. West's remarks were both intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging. I was impressed with how clearly he spoke to our artistic community - he actually tailored his remarks a bit to MassArt! - and his commitment to staying late to respond to all Q&A. I found him most authentic and inspiring.
I really really like how Jenn made such a complicated scientific topic much easier for everyone to understand. I also like that she incorporated art and history into her talk. I definitely enjoyed this talk a lot.
The Worn Wear crew welcomed my whole Form Study class and gave a mission-driven introduction to the project. It could have seemed like just a corporate promotional event if the folks there didn't so earnestly embody the ethos the project aspires to.
Well done, and thanks.
The discussion needed a question or thesis to stimulate involvement. This is similar but different from suggesting "study questions". Of course, maybe it will unfold differently from the more accessible readings. I appreciate the (new!) "institutional" attention to facilitation and group norms - holy crap - what good ideas! I was surprised when the question "how does this discussion help us serve the students?". It is a fine question, but I actually thought we were about smashing patriarchy and structural racism, which is considerably bigger than improving what we do every day. Let's say out loud what we're trying to do, and where to focus. Both is fine, "do a better job" as the focus is way too narrow and kafka-esque for me. Keep meeting, keep making them better, try everything (books, films, speakers, etc). Keep up the good work, friends!