Saturday, 7 February 2009

d'bi young.anitafrika: "rivers...and other blackness...between us"

We've never met, but her welcoming laughter greets me over the telephone as if we are friends reconnecting. I am kicking off my Black History Month celebrations with an interview with d'bi young.anitafrika, the extraordinarily gifted dub poet, actor, playwright. d'bi (rhymes with "to be") has won many awards for her work, including a Dora Mavor Moore award for Outstanding New Play (2006) award for her play, blood.claat--one womban story.

We discuss her book of poems, "rivers...and other blacness...between us". The book is divided into those 3 segments as broken up by the title. The number 3 is a magical number for young, and she tries to encorporate its mysticism into her writing.

She's Black, young and political, so I ask her about her audience, wondering if they were a predominently young crowd. It turns out that her audience is more varied than one would expect. She supposes that her diverse fan base is an off-shoot of being surrounded her whole life by the spoken word community. Her mother is dub poet pioneer Anita Stewart, and a few of in d'bi's circle include Dr. Afua Cooper, Ahdri Zhina mandiela (her mentor), Chet Singh, and Blakka Ellis (another mentor) and peers Motion and Jemini. Her popularity also grew out of the success of trey anthony's play, "Da Kink in My Hair", in which she plays an incest survivor--something d'bi experience herself. She credits director Weyni Mengesha for creating a healilng space for the entire cast over the plays run. Two of the poems in rivers is dedicated to Mengesha.

Today d'bi has chosen to read, Politricks. Like all of her work, the title came to her before the poem. Politricks is dedicated to Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and was inspired by the anger she felt about daycare funding (she had just given birth to moon)and other social services being cut..."mi have a dream last night"/dat some man did a play a game wid mi life"...

Because she is know for her commentary on racial and social issues, I ask her to read the poem, "blood orange". The poem is one of my favourites in the book, and is from the 3rd section of the book (...between us). She has never performed the piece in public, so I was very honoured that she agreed to read it over the phone. It's a pleasure to hear her read words such as these:

"a harvest moon
bleeds like a blood orange
you peel patiently
wrapping your mouth
around its fleshy surface
allowing your teeth and tongue and lips
to press and pull into it
until you separate parts of the whole
not violent
not forceful
and those separated parts become
what makes you a complete human being"

in rivers, young constantly reminds us all of the power of the storyteller, and their importance in telling the truth, whether we as a society want to hear it or not.

d'bi young on storytelling

African Reggae Compilation--"Bo Ten Qu'Luta" by One Love Family--Putumayo World
Sangoma --"Ngihawukele" by Sibongile--Indie release
Freedom & Dance--"Woman of Many Hands" by Lillian Allen--Verse to Vinyl
In My Soul --"Africville" by Four the Moment--Atlantica/Jam
Honey Drops Compilation--"Feelin' It" by Motion--Phem Phat/Universal
Honey Drops Compilation--"Break the Rulez" by The Day After feat.Michie Mee--Phem Phat/Universal

Shout Out!
Thanks to Hot Docs for their giveaway of 1 pair of tickets to MILKING THE RHINO, screening at their Doc Soup monthly documentary series.

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