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The Griot Party

May 3, 2019 - 12:50 pm

The Griot Party is an event that encourages community healing for all black and brown people whose lives and lineage have been impacted by the transatlantic slave trade.   Listen to Logic Amen, Griot Party Producer, Artist and Educator, speak to what the Griot has symbolized, and the space that the Griot Party events offer for the healing of black men.

The Griot Party Second Anniversary will be held the evening of May 4th at the Columbia City Theatre.


KBCS: You’re listening to KBCS 91.3 I’m Yuko Kodama. I’ve got Logic Amen in the studio, a commentator for KBCS When I created the Griot Party. I created the term the visionary learner, but also consider myself just an artist, activist, educator, you’ve been doing commentaries at KBCS for over a decade If not 14 years, yeah longer Yeah, it’s gotta be at least 14 years. And the for the last couple of years at least that I know of. You’ve been involved in the movement of the Griot Party. What is a griot?

Amen: A griot is the French word that was given to a storyteller, and it originated in West Africa. But before that, they were called the jeli you know, A griot is not just the storyteller, he’s also a musician too. You see within a griot is a whole library… 10,000 plus books and so when the oppressor or the invaders would come into African civilizations or nations in West Africa, the first person they would target would be the griot. Because if you take out the griot, then you take out the history of the people. If you neutralize that person, you can totally destabilize the whole community. And so that’s what we’re bringing back. We’re bringing back the griots… you know what I’m saying? Men, women and children, because we got a youth griot to that are, you know what I’m saying, trying to preserve the legacy and let people know that we’re still here. We’re not invisible. We still hurt. And we demand safe places for us to heal.

Tell me about what this griot party is. What’s the concept behind it?

People ask me.. well, what is the real party? I get that question a lot. And I just say it’s spoken word storytelling, theatre. Especially now on these days, we don’t have a lot of safe and sacred places to really feel and heal and build and grow…and the Griot Party is exactly that. It’s a safe place where people can tell their truth… and people can see their stories, and see themselves in other people’s stories…and creating those safe places is what, you know marginalized people and oppressed people need. Because um… when we become invisible, then it’s almost like you’re walking around, you’re not even alive because you’re not seen.

KBCS: Tell me of a story that you witnessed within the Griot Party experience that speaks to this.

Amen: I remember the first Griot Party we had, I get on the stage. And I started telling my story, and I like to share parts of me, so people can know what makes me who I am, and also want it to be an opportunity where I’m modeling how to express, especially coming from a man especially coming from a black man of how to express without being weak but as a sounding strength. …And I usually tell stories about my father, my stepfather. I usually tell stories about people who have sacrificed and done the most so I can, you know, be better. And so in that storytelling, I started to tell the story mentioning me about my father and then mentioning about my, my stepfather and how they were so influential in my life. …And I come offstage, very emotional, my, my daughter was there to give me a hug and everything. And I walk up, and you know, I started crying. So I walk up the stairs to go in the back room, and I look over in the corner, and there was a younger black man, maybe in his early 30s, who was our photographer at the time – and man, he’s just bawling. He, I mean, he’s just leaking. I mean, he’s just crying uncontrollably. He said, Man, you just now told my story. And he just sat there and he just he just let it out. And he just cried. And so that’s when I started to really understand. This is bigger than me.

KBCS: I remember in something that you had said that it was a healing experience for the whole community, but particularly for the black men, that this was an opportunity for healing. Could you speak to, these opportunities? Is it not that common? Or, you know, how does it play out?

Amen: Yeah, our primary focuses is creating safe places for black and brown man to heal… And when I say black and brown, black is the culture that represents you know, brown men in the African diaspora all over the planet earth and the global community who were impacted by the transatlantic slave trade, or what we call the African Holocaust. So when I say brown man, yes, that does mean black men or African men who were displaced through the the Middle Passage who speak many different languages who speak Portuguese, French, you know I’m saying Spanish, we’re not going to allow the political lines and the social constructs created by our oppressor to divide us. So I just want to say that real quick, and we just don’t have safe places to really heal. What we do have is unsafe places that we think that we’re healing. But they’re just really unsafe places.

And we usually try to hurt other people to heal. So what we have is, you know, the litany of violent sports we play, or we have these games that we play in the neighborhood call, you know, excuse my language smear to queer, or we have hide and go get it. We have fight clubs, we have the dozens. And these are all the places that we have created, right for our young men to be warriors to go out there and fight against white patriarchy, right? Because it’s like, we want our group of men to be just as strong as the white men that are oppressing us. Does that make sense? We all what end up doing is we end up competing with our oppressor and we start actually reflecting the same actions. And we need to, we need to transform that. We need to convert that. Because the true enemy is not patriarchy or toxic masculinity. It’s not men, it’s actually us men and women acting those out.

So we have to create these safe places for men to learn how to love each other in a safe way where they don’t feel weak. Where they don’t feel ultra-vulnerable. So they’re worried about, you know, their strength. And when they don’t feel like they’re being emasculated. This is why it’s such a complex thing because we’re actually turning everything upside down on its head. Because a lot of men have these fears of being weak of being seen as gay, and being seen as feminine. It’s a very delicate process. However, I think that with any movement, I think we can make this popular where men are expressing their emotions and sharing their positive experiences, through these safe places where people can actually go into these circles, right, and not be afraid that they’re going to actually be heard. One of my favorite circles that I’m passionate about, that helped me heal so much is hip hop, but it’s built around so much masculinity and patriarchy. You know, it’s built to make you a warrior. It’s based on like battling, you know, battle rapping, but it’s also an incredibly healing mechanism. You know, It also was created by the Zulu Nation, you know, to defuse, you know, gang activity and the violence in that. We built it around to, you know, to build warriors and stuff. And we have to get it to the point where people aren’t scared to step into this safe place, you know, and have to worry about being hurt. And I think a lot of people are very, very scared, especially men. And it’s really funny because it tough is men, you know, are scared to step into this and be vulnerable.

For example, my good friend who I consider my brother, LeDre, also Verb, if you come to the house parties, come the rooftop parties we’ll just sit down and we just we’ll just go and we start telling stories about us on the street. So I said, Man, you know, when you gonna, when you gonna get out here and do the griot party and tell a story? He said, ‘man, I got you next time’. Right, ‘got you next time’. So he’s like three months. out from one of the Griot Parties. So he hit me up like a month before and he said, ‘You know what?’ He said, Y’eah, man, I’m good. Yeah, I can’t do it.’ And I was like, ‘why?’ And he’s like, ‘I can’t be vulnerable like that in front of everybody. I was thinking about the stories that I was going to tell, and I will lose it.’ The irony in it is an incredible fear of men, of black men to be vulnerable. And this is the reason why we replace that fear and not hurt with anger, because THAT is what we get incentives for. If you teach a young child from birth, all the way to a man, this is what you’re going to get incentives for. This is what we’re going to reward you for. So you know, we’ll cheer for you and we’ll celebrate you if you just go out there and hurt somebody.

KBCS: How do you want to talk about the Green Party in context with your son and you? We’ve got Mecca, your son

Mecca: …I’m the the sun s-u-n, not s-o-n, visionary apprentice, you know… something along those lines. I’d like to think that I embody everything that my father is. So, you know, I’ll take on the names that he takes on as well.

Amen to Mecca: A question I want to ask you…based on your experiences, like the strategies that you learned, and the community and the family… how could you use what you learned in the Griot Party experience to not only heal your hurt, but to resolve conflict in your life?

Mecca: I mean, there’s a lot of different ways that I could use the Griot Party experience to heal my hurt, you know, and approach different conflicts. I think one of those ways is embracing it. Finding the beauty in the struggle, you know, and

Amen: embracing your hurt. Great.

Mecca: Exactly, exactly. Because

Amen: That’s powerful

Amen: It’s like – stop trying to act like his summer when it’s really winter. That’s the season you’re in. Step back from like, ‘it’s sunny outside’, when you see all this dang snow, and all this barren land, you need to embrace it, have a snowball fight, do something go skiing. Don’t be out here trying to sunbathe. And that’s what a lot of people do. They try to feel and act outside of the season that they’re in. I totally embrace my summer, winter, fall and spring, because there’s beauty in each one of those stages. And it’s not always easy, but I totally embrace that hurt.

And the way that I would like people to use the griot party experience to heal their hurt and resolve conflict… Instead of doing something to someone, tell something to someone about your hurt, instead of hurting someone. Tell someone why you are now You ain’t gotta, you know, especially in black folks culturally, you ain’t, gotta out there and air your dirty laundry and be telling all your business out there in the street… You can tell a snippet of your story. Here’s another thing that you can do that’s a forgotten art in the black community. You can tell folklore, you can tell a myth, you could tell someone else’s story. You could tell allegories, you could tell parables, whatever it takes, you can take the form of an animal. And you could be that animal and people could probably have like an inclination that you’re talking about yourself, but they can’t have any real proof. …But you’re spitting game and you’re letting that out and saying, hey, and there’s so much power in telling stories A lot of people don’t understand. It’s like Africans were such powerful storytellers because we didn’t want to write anything down because you could destroy something that’s written down. But the reason why black people and Africans are such powerful entertainersand communicators is because our oral history was passed through what’s gossip, and that’s a cultural aspect that is still so very entertaining and profitable, you know, amongst black people. It’s because it’s rooted in our history. We heal our hurt through storytelling, which can be converted into a very entertaining facet of storytelling, which is gossip. instead of actually hurting someone. Tell someone why you hurt.

KBCS: that was logic Amen, a commentator for KNCS, with his son, Mecca. Amen. Logic on man is the Producer and Director of the Griot Party, Second Anniversary Experience. Coming up this coming Saturday at 8pm at Columbia City Theater. You’re listening to KBCS