02-19-2017  3:28 pm      •     


Poets, performers, teachers, writers – Walidah Imarisha and Turiya Autrey are all that.
Now they're becoming promoters.
Starting this week, they host a new series of conscious hip hop shows featuring the X-Vandals at shows, film screenings and lectures stretched between Portland and Eugene.
"The problem is that when money enters into it then starts to squeeze down and narrow out everything, and what's not commercially viable gets left to the side," Autrey says. "What we're trying to do with these bookings is push those rules back a little bit and make more space."
The promoters are especially proud of bringing the X-Vandals duo of Not4Prophet and DJ Johnny Juice – who was a member of Public Enemy when he was only 15 years old – as well as Vagabond of Ricanstruction Netwerk from New York City.
"They've collaborated to do this really amazing – it's hip hop, it's old school, it's loud," Imarisha says. "Both DJ Johnny Juice and Not4Prophet have been involved in organizing work around issues of race, incarceration, liberation struggle, so they're fully understanding the connection of hip hop and really kind of resurrecting hip hop as a tool for change."
Imarisha and Autrey are co-instructors in feminist studies at Portland State University. They perform together as Good Sista/Bad Sista, hosting poetry events and slams as well as headlining events for social change organizations, as they did at a recent evening show for Communities Against Rape and Abuse in Seattle.

Wednesday, Nov. 12, Black Bag Series Discussion with X-Vandals, noon to 1:30 p.m. at Portland State University; X-Vandals Concert Performance with Not4Prophet and DJ Johnny Juice, 6-9 p.m., SMSU Ballroom, third floor, featuring Syndel, Mic Crenshaw, and DJ Generik

Thursday Nov. 13 University of Oregon X-Vandals Concert Performance, 8 p.m., University of Oregon Living Center, 1575 E. 15th St., Eugene, free to the public, open to all ages. Featuring Mic Crenshaw and Syndel, hosted by Good Sista/Bad Sista

Friday Nov. 14, screening of the independent film "Machetero," 7 p.m. at the Laughing Horse Bookstore, 12 NE 10th Ave., followed by question and answer with Not4Prophet and Vagabond, the film's director.

Nov. 15, Mic Crenshaw's CD release party, 8 p.m. at the Blue Monk, 3341 SE Belmont, ages 21 and over, featuring Mic Crenshaw, Hungry Mob, X-Vandals, DJ Generik, Good Sista/Bad Sista and more.

"I feel like as an artist obviously it's important to get my voice out there, but I think another important role for an artist is to create space for other people to explore their artistic self and support their work," Autrey says
"I think the power of Portland is that there are people here hungry for it, ready for it, interested in hearing different voices and different analysis and different experiences," Imarisha says. "Portland's really ripe."
Imarisha grew up on military bases overseas, went to high school in Oregon and then earned her college degree at Portland State University, where she met Autrey.
Autrey grew up in Seattle and California and has lived in Portland almost 14 years. Much of her work is in the field of education. She's taught at Portland State University five years as an adjunct professor, and before that she taught for three years as an undergraduate and graduate student. She was named most outstanding teacher in 2007.
"I do creative writing workshops, hip hop workshops with youth and performance workshops with the community of young writers, writers in the schools, Caldera," she said. "I've been organizing shows in Portland for close to 10 years."
"How we hooked up and started doing things as Good Sista/Bad Sista, we just started performing together and then we were both doing separate organizing stuff, and so we drew each other into that work," Imarisha said. "We also drew each other into the teaching work that we do, we also teach in an elementary school, at Rosa Parks, for Community of Writers."
Imarisha relocated to Philadelphia for eight years where she worked in prisoner/family organizing, and anti-war organizing.
"I was responsible for helping to start AWOL Magazine, which was a national hip hop publication," she said. She was involved with Ricanstruction – a Puerto Rican-New York political band collective, then moved back to Portland a year ago and reunited with Autrey as Good Sista/Bad Sista.
"I think one of the things we try to do with Good Sista/Bad Sista is link together with different forms of oppression and recognize that, especially as women of color, that assault is not separate from the prison industrial complex, it's not separate from the war going on in Iraq, it's not separate from domestic violence," Imarisha says. "These all impact us on our flesh as women of color and we have to find ways to draw those connections that are natural for us and not natural in the way we talk about it in the larger political context."
Currently the two women are teaching a Black feminism class at Portland State. This winter they're planning a race, gender and science fiction literature course.
"So much of hip hop is taking the things that you have and making do, and then making something phenomenal with them," she said. "There are so many aspects of it that I think people don't remember that it was rooted in youth finding constructive, artistic ways to really speak their mind, come into information, share that information."
Autrey quotes Chuck D, who once said that hip hop is the Black CNN.
"So much of that is true, in the way that people across the nation really got a feel for what was going on through the music and the art," she said. "It's like a continuation of a long history of how people have used artistic expression as a way to change the world around them, create activism and engage in revolutionary acts."

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All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. 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"A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. 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