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AllEyesOnDC: The “No Culture without Agriculture” Edition

No saying speaks more to Black people’s need to get back our indigenous ways than “There’s no culture without agriculture.” In the spirit of Earth Day, AllEyesOnDC wanted to focus on Our lost connection to the Earth and usher a call for getting back to our roots.

At Sankofa Video Books & Café on the night of April 21st, people in attendance, including this host, saw parallels between agriculture, genealogy, health and fitness, metaphysics, economics, and politics during a two-hour program that included interviews with Sherice, Sr., master urban farmer and leader of the Hippee Chic urban gardening/sustainability movement and Xavier Brown of Soilful City.

Baba Tarik Oduno, a fixture in the D.C. community and pioneer of “There’s no culture without agriculture,” broke down the meaning of that saying, reminding audience members that we must always honor our mothers and fathers and understand our history. After all, Baba Oduno said, “genius is in our genealogy.” Note that this segment was less of an interview, and more of a lecture, all to the audience’s benefit.

Wrapping up the evening was a demonstration by Christina Cook, a Teaching Artist Institute fellow, of how rhythm could boost communication for people on the spectrum (autism, ADHD, etc.). During this segment, five audience members, including Baba Oduno, beat on drums and learned how to create the perfect combination of rhythms – all without speaking a word to one another.

Check out this video and get a great look at what community and self-determination, as it relates to food production, looks like in the District of Columbia.

A Moment with Nana Malaya Rucker

Since the age of 16, Nana Mayala Rucker has brought African-centered folklore to life through spoken word and dance. Her craft for telling stories in this manner has taken her around the world. She has before well-known political powerbrokers. In her role as a “cultural ambassador” Rucker introduces people of various backgrounds to forms of African dance and music. In her journey, she learned more about the most remote places on earth and the elements of Africa they possess.

These days, Rucker performs and educates our young ones, ensuring that the arts remain a vehicle for change that people of African descent utilize to their fullest potential. At a time when schools in communities of color have embraced test-based curricula, this elder works hard to bridge the generational gap and ensure that young people have access to a time-tested means of the artistic education that has been proven to uplift. This mission bears a strong similarity to previous ventures, including Nubian Theatre & Dance Co., an international dance company that has exposed children and adults of African descent to the folklore and spoken word since the early 1980s.

In this AllEyesOnDC video, Rucker, a student of August Wilson, John Henrik Clarke, and other prominent African figures and scholars, reflects on her coming of age, how she rose in African consciousness, and the hurdles that she faced in her pursuit of international stardom. She then closes this segment with a performance honoring the late, great Rosa Parks on the 60th anniversary of the day she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus.

Sa-Roc the MC Receives a Hometown Hero’s Welcome at Sankofa

Last week, conscious hip-hop artist and native Washingtonian Sa-Roc the MC performed in a packed Liv Nightclub in Northwest. More than 24 hours before gracing the stage however, a small audience that included fans, family members, and friends got to know the lyricist more intimately.

On the evening of Tuesday, March 1, nearly 40 people converged on Sankofa Video Books & Café on Georgia Avenue to chat with Sa-Roc and vibe to her music during a two-hour meet-and-greet event. During this function, she addressed visitors with short remarks, passed out copies of her work, and chopped it up with admirers.

“It feels good to be in D.C. I wasn’t doing much of my music here so it feels good to display my work in my hometown,” Sa-Roc, a former Howard University student and alumna of the NationHouse School who hails from Southeast, told AllEyesOnDC during the meet-and-greet. “It’s formative. I’ve been living in Atlanta for so long that people don’t see me as a D.C. artist. Being in the D.C. music scene solidifies things in my mind.”

Since leaving the District in 2002 to pursue her music career, Sa-Roc hasn’t come back home, other than to perform every once so often. Even so, her lyrics, arguably the most conspicuous sign of an Afrocentric upbringing, reflect a life and absorption of culture indigenous to those living in what was once known as “Chocolate City.” Sa-Roc’s vast discography includes “SA-ROC: Journey of the Starseed,” “Supernova,” and most recently “Gift of Magi.”

In her music, one can hear remnants of go-go, old-school hip-hop, indie rock, and other musical genres. Sa-roc’s influences include Jimi Hendrix, Earth Wind & Fire, and Gil Scott Heron, perhaps a testament to the rebellious nature of her craft and rebellious lyricism. These days, she counts among the handful of prominent black female emcees that don’t bare it all for the screen or rap about their sexual exploits. Such a dedication to being the “other” has led to collaborations with Jay Electronica, Nappy Roots, Afrika Bambataa, David Banner, and Stic.man of Dead Prez.

Nich Lewis, mother of two young women and community member who lives in Northeast, told AllEyesOnDC that she respects Sa-Roc, so much so that she wants her daughters to look to her as an example of black womanhood. On Tuesday evening, Lewis and her brother strolled into Sankofa eager to chat with Sa-Roc during the meet-and-greet.

“Sa-Roc’s classy and operates on divine energy. I first checked her out on ‘Spittin In Da Wip,’” Lewis said. “She gets her point across without taking off her clothes. That’s scarce in this generation. Listening to her music makes me feel like Chocolate City never died.”

Southern Illinois University professor Najjar Abdul-Musawwir echoed Lewis’ sentiments, saying the entertainment industry has slowly pivoted toward a more conservative, wholesome look in recent years mainly due to an oversaturation of sexually explicit content. Musawwir, who’s currently conducting research about the African origins of the Banjo at the Smithsonian Institute, came to the event with a friend.

That evening, he too talked extensively with Sa-Roc and even pledged to attend her show at Liv, stressing that black people must support art that uplift the race.

“I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I’m really glad that Sa-Roc is putting this music out,” Musawwir told AllEyesOnDC. “Some artists throw out sloppy singles. She’s top grade. All of her stuff is of the highest quality. In this society, we have downgraded ourselves so much that people are thirsty for this type of music. Sa-Roc is of the people and for the people. She dresses up her music with knowledge.”

If Sa-Roc left a mark on anyone that evening, it was Ja-Dor Stewart, a middle schooler and aspiring R&B singer who attended the Sankofa meet-and-greet with her mother. Ja-Dor, who’s currently applying to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Northwest, said Sa-Roc showed her what’s possibly for a young artist growing in her African consciousness.

“Sa-Roc came out of the African culture to make music,” Ja-Dor told AllEyesOnDC. “She’s standing up as a positive influence for a lot of youth at a time when the music industry is trying to take down a lot of good artists. She’s blazing a trail to show us that we don’t have to be status quo.”

Follow Sa-Roc on Instagram and Facebook.

Mikey Dee Talks Music Career, Life, and D.C. Issues

D.C. hip-hop artist Mikey Dee visits AllEyesOnDC and discusses his career, locally coveted Metro tour, and the intricacies of the music business.

Hip-Hop Lyricist Competition Comes to D.C.

Sam P.K. Collins interviews Jeff Mimms of Jack’n for Beats and Chicago hip-hop artist Sinatris about a contest in the D.C. area for aspiring artists.

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