Postscript: Dirty Mind 40 Graffiti Bridge 30 Virtual Symposium

Postscript: Dirty Mind 40 Graffiti Bridge 30 Virtual Symposium

I was looking forward to De Angela Duff’s virtual symposium celebrating 40 years of Dirty Mind and 30 years of Graffiti Bridge. But I didn’t know I needed it until I was there. It’s been, I think, a rough year for everyone. Those of us who listen to epidemiologists are about to enter our fourth month of staying home and staying isolated to flatten the curve of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, police brutality is running rampant across the country, with yet another man in Atlanta, Rayshard Brooks, joining the depressingly long list of recent victims of state-sanctioned murder, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and David McAtee. Under conditions like these, it’s hard to feel much enthusiasm about anything. Speaking for myself, I’ve been at a low ebb in creativity and motivation for a while, even before everything went to shit.

It’s hard to overstate, then, how energized I felt from the first moments of the online conference last Friday. Seeing familiar “faces” in the chat (Darling Nisi, Harold Pride, Erica Thompson, Arlene Oak, Annie Ward, Chris Aguilar-Garcia, Zack Stiegler, and Jason Breininger, to name just a few), and hearing from others who know me from my work, was a timely reminder that I’m not out here alone; that there is a vibrant, welcoming community that shares my passion. The whole thing felt like a warm hug–something that, in these times of social distancing, is in desperately short supply.

I’d also forgotten how exciting it is to hear new research from others in a shared area of expertise. I’ve been out of the academic game for a while, and my last conference even as an independent scholar was Prince from Minneapolis back in 2018. I didn’t realize how much I missed the intellectual stimulation events like this provide. As this blog attests, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Dirty Mind, but last weekend’s presentations gave me new ways to think about it: from Christopher A. Daniel’s vital excavation of contemporary discourse by music critics of color; to Steven G. Fullwood’s acute analysis of the ways Prince synthesized punk and disco to carve out liberatory new territory in popular music; to C. Leigh McInnis’ rousing, almost Pentecostal oration on the “street philosophy” of Dirty Mind and the ways it reshaped Black masculinity in the early ’80s. Even more impressive, though, were the ways presenters found to cast Graffiti Bridge–a project that has never been among my favorites–in a new light. Both Monique W. Morris and Robert Loss applied a richness and rigor of analysis to the film that was, frankly, above and beyond what the script demanded; while Kirsty Fairclough (of Salford Purple Reign conference fame) and Casci Ritchie made solid arguments for the film on the basis of its aesthetics. I don’t think I’ll ever be a Graffiti Bridge convert, but I thought more about the movie last weekend than I’ve thought about it in the past 30 years, and that in itself is an achievement.

What made DM40GB30 especially timely, however, were the ways its hosts, guests, and presenters spoke directly to the current historical context. The keynote by André Cymone and Jill Jones included lengthy discussions of what it was like for a Black person to grow up (in André’s case), or move to (in Jill’s), Minneapolis: a city that, as we know all too well, has often failed to live up to the “Uptown” mythology Prince helped invent. Journalist Hasit Shah also spoke to this context in his presentation, making the argument that “Uptown” is not the uncritical celebration of multiculturalism which it has become in some sections of the fan community, but “a fucking protest song.” Even the weekend-closing musical set by musician Chris Rob incorporated numerous shout-outs to George Floyd, demonstrating that the music Prince recorded in 1980, 1990, and everywhere in-between has lasting social relevance beyond basic fan nostalgia.

If you were at the symposium and you noticed that I didn’t mention your favorite presentation, it’s probably because I didn’t catch it. I regrettably missed the majority of both the Dirty Mind roundtable, with BBC Manchester presenter Karen Gabay, musician Nicolay, journalist Keith Murphy, and former Right On! magazine editor Cynthia M. Horner (!); as well as its Graffiti Bridge equivalent, with the recurring panel of De Angela, Zaheer Ali, Anil Dash, Miles Marshall Lewis, and Elliott H. Powell. I plan to rectify this–and rewatch a lot of other presentations that I missed, in full or in part–once the video archive of the symposium is available in July.

Mostly, though, I intend to ride the creative and intellectual high I experienced last weekend for as long as humanly possible. I came out of DM40GB30 feeling renewed, inspired, and ready to throw myself into this and other projects–something I haven’t felt in a good, long while. I would, of course, jump at the chance to participate in next year’s symposium, which will celebrate 40 years of Controversy, 30 years of Diamonds and Pearls, and 20 years of The Rainbow Children. But even if I don’t get that chance, I will definitely be attending. Events like this are much too precious and rare to take for granted.

(Thank you so much to De Angela Duff, who clearly put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears–and a decent amount of her own money–into making this thing happen; and to Arthur Turnbull, who did a great job helping to steer the ship. Also, thanks to everyone who tuned in to my roundtable on the Time’s Pandemonium with KaNisa, Ricky Wyatt, and Ivan Orr on Sunday evening–I hope you had even a fraction of the amount of fun I did!)

This Weekend: Dirty Mind 40 Graffiti Bridge 30 Virtual Symposium

This Weekend: Dirty Mind 40 Graffiti Bridge 30 Virtual Symposium

So, uh, it’s been a while. I know I haven’t looked it, but I’ve actually been relatively busy these past few weeks, preparing to relaunch d / m / s / r for its fifth year and beyond. It has been slow, tedious work, but it’s looking great and I think will overall be a much better reading experience. I can’t wait to share it later this month.

In the meantime, I wanted to make sure you all know about this weekend’s virtual symposium celebrating 40 years of Dirty Mind and 30 years of Graffiti Bridge. This will be the third Prince-focused symposium organized by De Angela Duff (of New York University and the Grown Folks Music podcast network), who previously put together the wonderful symposia on the 30th anniversaries of Lovesexy in 2018 and Batman in 2019. I am honored to be a small part of this year’s event (which is being held remotely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic), along with friends of d / m / s / r Darling Nisi, Harold Pride, Erica Thompson, Karen Turman, and Chris Aguilar Garcia, and a bunch of other people who I have either had the pleasure to meet or have long admired from afar. If you’re interested in seeing me specifically, I will be on a roundtable on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. with KaNisa and podcasters Michael Dean, Ivan Orr, and Ricky Wyatt, discussing the Time’s Pandemonium album. But really, you should just check out the whole thing. The event is free, and now that it’s held virtually, you don’t need to travel to Brooklyn to join us (hell, you don’t even need to put on pants!).

You can view the symposium schedule and register to attend here:

Prince DM40GB30 Virtual Symposium

Thank you so much to De Angela for extending the invitation to participate; I’ve been a fan of her work for a while and just waiting for the opportunity to connect. Can’t wait to see everyone this weekend!

Podcast: I am Something That You’ll Never Understand – Chris Aguilar-Garcia and Natalie Clifford on the Salford Purple Reign Conference

Podcast: I am Something That You’ll Never Understand – Chris Aguilar-Garcia and Natalie Clifford on the Salford Purple Reign Conference

(Featured Image: Prince at his most gender-nonconforming on the Lovesexy tour program cover, 1988; photo by Jeff Katz.)

Here at last, after much delay, is my conversation with Chris Aguilar-Garcia and Natalie Clifford, two presenters from this May’s interdisciplinary Prince conference at the University of Salford. Both Chris and Nat identify as queer, and both have very interesting things to say about Prince’s legacy of “revolutionary queerness” and the space he created for less conventional expressions of gender and sexuality in the mainstream. If you liked the last episode with Snax, chances are you’re gonna like this one.

This is the part of the description where I would normally say we’re switching gears and moving away from the Salford conference, but as it happens, we already have another interview with a presenter in store. So basically, I’ll keep doing these as long as people want to talk to me. If you still want to listen to me–and, more importantly, my eloquent guests–feel free to subscribe on your podcast service of choice (iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play), or listen on Mixcloud. And if you really like us, take that aforementioned podcast app and shoot us a rating or review; it will make us more “discoverable” and broaden the listening base. In the meantime, thanks as always for listening!

Continue reading “Podcast: I am Something That You’ll Never Understand – Chris Aguilar-Garcia and Natalie Clifford on the Salford Purple Reign Conference”

Podcast: Everybody Shut Up, Listen to the Band – Felicia Holman and Harold Pride on the Salford Purple Reign Conference

Podcast: Everybody Shut Up, Listen to the Band – Felicia Holman and Harold Pride on the Salford Purple Reign Conference

(Featured Image: “The Band with No Name”; from the Sign “O” the Times tour book, 1987.)

Settle in, folks, because today we’ve got not one, but two presenters from this spring’s Prince conference at the University of Salford: interdisciplinary artist/activist Felicia Holman and independent scholar/activist Harold Pride. Both were part of the organic community of Black artists and academics who came together in Manchester and, each in their own way, helped to reclaim Prince’s legacy as a specifically African American artist. The three of us talk about that, as well as their specific papers–Harold’s on the underrated, short-lived “Band with No Name” from 19871988; Felicia’s on Prince’s autodidacticism and its connection to traditions of Black self-determination–and, as usual, a lot of other things along the way. It’s a great conversation that could have easily been twice as long; I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

I still have a handful of these interviews lined up, and will be posting them at least through Labor Day. If you want to hear them, you can follow the podcast on any of the major services (iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play). Appearances to the contrary, I’m also still writing: I’ll be back to the ol’ grind next week. See you then!

Continue reading “Podcast: Everybody Shut Up, Listen to the Band – Felicia Holman and Harold Pride on the Salford Purple Reign Conference”