Kingston After Dark: National identities

Tal National in performance.

Some people called the triumphant new movie Black Panther un-American because it featured a vast majority black cast and mostly took place outside of America. We all know they really were upset by the positive portrayals of the characters in such a mainstream movie. Xhosa was chosen as Black Panther’s language in Captain America: Civil War and the new entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe examines more important social justice themes than much other superhero fare. So of course Republicans are afraid of it.

Eisenhower’s Republican Party of the 1950s promised to “extend the protection of the federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable.” It is a far different party we see these days, trading dead kids for NRA dollars in a hideous display of national gaslighting and hideous cynicism. As he was leaving office in ’61, Ike warned us about the dangers of the military-industrial complex, but we’ve only sacrificed more and more young lives on that altar. God bless the brave Parkland kids who have stood up to the lie that nothing can be done. Meanwhile, we know white males who are domestic abusers or prone to xenophobia are the biggest risk, statistically speaking, when it comes to potentially going on a murder spree, but an official government study on gun violence is willfully absent from public debate to further disinformation. Why? Because it’s literally against the law for the government to conduct one. Like gerrymandering, this needs to change.

I hope a lot of people will support March for Our Lives events on March 24 in solidarity with school-shooting victims, and all gun-violence victims. I for one am sick of how every time kids get murdered, armchair experts pretend they are drinking buddies with the Founding Fathers and know exactly how the dudes who wrote the Constitution would have handled the issue of AR-15s — a weapon more deadly than they could perhaps have ever imagined.


Dare we as a society monopolize what is heroism, base our perspectives through one religion’s tinted glasses and values and not allow others their narratives? Does this not lead to the kind of intolerance that fuels hateful diatribes and the inherent violence of “othering” through the teachings of white supremacy? As we face economic and communication divides or biases against tolerance in our own community, let’s remember to let ourselves be made richer by the voices and faces that make life on this diverse rock worth living.

On Monday, March 12 from 7:30-10:30 p.m., FatCat recording artists Tal National will be taking over BSP Kingston. Niger’s most popular band for over 15 years, the band earned their keep by playing their native country non-stop. (Hey, it worked for Sevendust and Mastodon in the U-S-of-A. Bringing it to the people is the way to be, if you can make the lifestyle work.) Six members strong with live-show ranks at times swelling even further, this act will positively blow your mind. The band brings West African jams with a progressive edge to vibrant life, the songs undeniably cooking with energy and connectivity. I always loved the fusion era of Miles Davis or some of the zaniest Mars Volta stuff or even a large-sized reggae act like Morgan Heritage, so whenever I see a group of performers that’s bigger, devoted to their craft, culturally relevant and plays with creative crackle, I take notice.

A nation in West Africa, Niger borders Nigeria, Mali and Ghana. Collected within this former French colony can be found Songhai, Fulani, Hausa, and Tuareg populations, all of whom are represented in the membership of Tal National. Their songs are intense yet sophisticated, combining original numbers with new arrangements of West African folk songs, dealing with themes of love, tolerance, peace, feminine beauty and women’s physical dance expression based on traditional African rhythms.

When it comes to America, I choose to still believe in the best promise of the Declaration of Independence, but it does read “all men” are created equal, not “all people.” Jefferson should have worded that line to be more inclusive but it certainly reflects the values of the time it was crafted. That doesn’t mean that black people, Asians, gay or trans people — who absolutely have existed throughout history and aren’t some new trend — cis women and all others aren’t deserving of rights as well. As time passes and we learn, we change, improve and tinker. This is called adapting and if we’re going to survive long-term, it absolutely has to happen. I’m glad to live in a community that believes in offering a lot of green and sustainable solutions. I hope that will extend to our general politics as well as we bring a blue wave this year and clean up this festering stench from Washington.

The Constitution was not written to be a rag to soak up the endless blood of children. But it’s been used to justify a whole lot of death across classes, races and throughout history. We must improve life throughout the world and not remain frozen in amber as weapons grow ever deadlier and we grow further apart. America used to be the place everyone wanted to visit and many wanted to live. Do you think anyone believes that right now? But I know love — and a belief that we can improve and adhere to the best that binds us — isn’t gone from our country.