It's Friday, the United States is bombing Syria for bombing Syria, and if we're being honest, we could use a little break from it all. Enter "Resist," the first song from ordained minister and civil rights activist Rev. Osagyefo Sekou from his upcoming debut In Times Like These. It's an homage to Standing Rock, and mixes Arkansas blues and gospel with Memphis soul to create a beautiful reminder of the origins of country music and American protest songs. "Resist" calls upon the listener to stand up, speak out, and reminds us that protest runs deep within every American's blood.
Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou is many things, including an author, documentary filmmaker, pastor and theologian, and now he can add musician to that truly impressive resume (well, he's been a musician for a long time, so I guess "recording artist" might be a better term?). Raised in Arkansas, he now resides in St. Louis. When asked for a quote, Rev. Sekou gave Noisey permission to run his essay, The Task of the Artist in the Time of Monsters, which appears in the liner notes of the record.
In Times Like These drops May 5 via Thirty Tigers. Listen to the song and read his essay below.
The Task of the Artist in the Time of Monsters
We come to know monsters early in our lives. Our childhoods are filled with scary things that "go bump" in the night. A ferocious fire-breathing creature with bulging eyes, fangs, and foaming at the mouth stands over us. We pull the covers over our head; pray and pretend that the monster is just a figment of our imagination.
Monsters are real. History is peopled with millions of corpses left in their wake. Monsters—indeed—are not rare. We rattle off monsters' names with great ease and compare them to our present brutes. Monsters carry out individual atrocities and conceal our complicity, which is far more sinister than the monsters themselves. Not only do we hide from monsters, we hide behind them. Nations have always bred monsters; and nations love monsters but not artists. Artists know that all nations are morally bankrupt and that politics are diseased. They remind nations that monsters are not new.
Albert Camus pleaded with the artist to never side with the makers of history but rather the victims of it. And the victims will be legion —Muslim, Black, queer, young, undocumented, old, female, differently-abled, and all of the poor. Artists must be lobbyists for the languishing. While monsters spew vile words, artists do not take any delight in such talk because demonization cannot defeat demagoguery. Audre Lorde taught that using the master's tools makes us the master's tools. Artists do not shame those living in the night; artists shine light.
James Baldwin—the greatest amongst us—called artists to quarrel with their nations as lovers do. Artists are not politicians. They are legislators of hope, parliamentarians of possibility. To be sure, the past is a guide, but melancholy can be a nation's undoing. Nostalgia is a form of mourning for a past that never was, because the present is unbearable and the future is unforeseeable. When the present obscures the future and undermines the past, artists are diplomats between the world that was, the world that is and the world that is to be. So then artists' allegiances can never be to a flag, a party, or a state. Love is their government.
When monsters say that we should lie down and die, the art of loving and living is the sacred task of artists—making home from rubble held together by the very thing that monsters have sought to snuff out for ages—joy. Artists are architects of being; building communities where there are no strangers only neighbors. And monsters fear that.
-Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou
Tour with North Mississippi Allstars
5/10 Philadelphia, PA -World Cafe Live
5/11 New York, New York - Bowery Ballroom
5/12 Boston, MA - The Sinclair
5/13 Pawling, NY - Daryl House Club
5/16 Toronto, ON - Mod Club
5/17 Detroit, MI - El Club
5/18 Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall
5/19 Nashville, TN - Third Man Records
5/20 Atlanta, GA - Variety Playhouse
6/1-3 Austin, TX - Antones
6/4 San Antonio, TX - Sam's Burger Joint
6/6 Houston, TX - The Heights Theatre
6/7 Dallas, TX - Kessler Theater
6/9 Santa Fe, NM - The Bridge @ Santa Fe Brewing
6/13 Salana Beach, CA - Belly Up
6/15 Los Angeles, CA - The Roxy Theatre
6/16 San Francisco, CA - The Independent
6/17 San Francisco, CA - Slim's