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Is race embedded in music and related expressive practices in particularly powerful ways.  Does music mark race? Or does music reproduce the traces of race, thereby perpetuating the racial imagination itself.

Ronald Radano and Philip V. Bohlman,  “Music and the Racial Imagination

Neither Emily White’s “Revolution Girl Style Now” (LA Weekly July 10-16), nor Edith Kaeh Garrison’s “Feminism-Grrl Style! Youth (sub) Cultures and the Technologies of the Third Wave” (Feminist Studies 26, 1 (2000) open up spaces for an alternative voice within alternative rock other than predominately white 3rd Wave ‘Revolutionary’ feminist/artists such Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, Riot Girls, and Riot Grrrls. What seems to be missing from their criticisms is how race, gender and class intersect to reproduce the racism embedded in alternative rock in the 1980’s.

Garrison’s theoretical critique, cites Ruth Frankenberg’s “tool kit” as a metaphor for oppositional technologies,” which Garrison defines as a “political praxis of resistance woven into low tech, amateur, hybrid, alternative subcultural,” represented by the“Riot Grrrl’s” punk movement (p 151) whose name, she says, is, “partially derived from a phrase of encouragement popularized by young American black women in the late 1980’s: “You go, guuuurlll!”(Gilbert & Kile, “Surfergrrls: Look Ethel! An Internet Guide for Us”, (1996).

Where are the guuuurllls and why are they excluded from the feminist 80’s liberal movement? *Ruth Frankenberg’s, “The Social Construction of Whiteness,” 1993, suggests that there is an “evasion of color and power consciousness which permeates daily life” for white 3rd Wave feminist. She explains how these women narrate elaborate efforts not to see race and assume that they are colorblind.

Patricia Hill Collins, “Black Feminist Thought”, 2000, goes further to admonish white feminists for both evasion and complicity because it allows them to “pay lip service to the need for diversity, but changing little about one’s own practices” (6).  As a result of 3rd Wave subterfuge Angela Davis (The Meaning of Freedom” Open Media, 2012) argues that women of color now “constitute the fastest growing sector of the imprisoned population, and among women prisoners, women of color constitute the fastest-growing sector.” She goes on to pose the question if “I am also implicated in the continued patterns of racism, I ask not only how do I help to change those whom I hold responsible for the structures of racism, I ask also: How do I change myself.” Deconstructing internalized patterns of oppression necessitates listening to the Guuuuurllls voices filling the racialized prison landscape through the ceaseless crossing of the African Diaspora.

Angela Davis speaks as a revolutionary ‘political prisoner’ during her 2 year California incarceration

Davis refers to Bessie Smith “Sing Sing Prison Blues”, 1924 Jazz Legend in “Blues Legacies and Black Feminism”, 1998 (p 336)

The “Negro Prison Songs/ Negro Prison Songs / “Black Woman-Murder’s Home-Jumpin’Judy from The Mississippi State Penitentiary; A Selection Historical Recordings from Parchman Farm 1947, recorded by Dr Harry Oster, a US musicologist.

Contemporary Global Political Prison Reform Music Star Zee performs “Nar Yu Right” in a female prison in Freetown.“Nar Yu Right,”means “Know your right” in Krio, one of the local dialects in Sierra Leone.

(*Donna Haraway in the Guardian, July 2007, wrote the Obituary of British-born sociologist Ruth Frankenberg, who died aged 49 of lung cancer. Professor Frankenberg did groundbreaking research on how race shapes our lives. She taught a Gender Studies Class at the UofW in 1987 during my undergraduate years. She was a brilliant and gracious teacher. Her first book, “The Social Construction of Whiteness,” is still in my library and I continue to refer to it for its relevance to our contemporary moment.)

 

 

 

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