Saturday, April 14, 2007



to leave Minneapolis just before the end of the Dylan Symposium, fly back to Penn State that evening, teach my seminar on CRITICAL ISSUES IN RACE AND ETHNICITY the next morning, switch my suitcase from Minnesota clothes to Alabama clothes, and get on down to Tuscaloosa for the conference titled ERUPTIONS OF FUNK, organized by poet and critic Anthony Bolden. But NorthWest Air had different plans, it seems, and I spent the night in Detroit, a place I love to visit, but I prefer to get beyond the airport. So I was rerouted to Alabama the next morning, missing my seminar, and arrived far earlier than the conference staff had been expecting. Still, they had someone in Birmingham to meet me at the plane, and they were so kind as to drive me by a department store so I could get clean socks and some short sleeve shirts. Then I was ready for the conference.

. . . where one of the first panels featured an excellent talk on the BOONDOCKS comic by Howard Rambsy, a graduate of Penn State's PhD program and currently on the faculty at Southern Illionis State (and keep an eye out for his first book, coming before too much longer, and well worth your reading). Howard was kind enough following the conference to share some of his photos with me. As you can imagine, he did not take this photo of himself, as I did not take any of the photos you'll see here in which I appear. I will try to tag the other photos Howard took in which the provenance isn't as obvious as in those two cases.

One panel included, left to right, Emily Lordi, Ondra Thomas-Krouse and Scott Brown.

Thomas Sayers Ellis, Kalamu ya Salaam Tracy Morris and I gathered around the table where all the sound and visual equipment was stationed, a good twenty feet away from the podium with no remote. This produced some comic effects as we took turns being the "A.V. Nerd" for each other. Thomas showed up at Penn State to give us a poetry reading just a week later.

The panel I was on included Cheryl Keys, Mark Anthony Neal and R. Scott Heath. My own talk here arose from Tony Bolden's desire to have someone give a paper on Alabama-native Sun Ra. So I ventured some remarks on Sun Ra's musical engagements with his own home state. I'll post the opening portion (about Hughes, Baraka and Coltrane) on this blog shortly.

Kalamu and I also spent some time puzzling over a recalcitrant trope we found on the laptop screen.

Scott Heath, like several others, took his turn at the master control.

Mark Anthony Neal started out on the dais, gravitated to the AV table, and wound up wandering productively in the netherworld of funk and critique, much to the benefit of all of us. Mark was also the only cultural studies guy I've ever heard invoke the too nearly forgotten D. J. Rogers, who was not a DJ, but whose "Say You Love Me" will change your life.

Another panel gave us talks by Karen Ohnesorge, Rondee Gaines, Melva Sampson and Sabrina Freeney.

The fine folk in Alabama took very good care of us. Here Mark Anthony Neal and Scott Heath, having finished dinner, contemplate the potential move of a major dude from Penn to G'Town.

Tony Bolden wonders what he hath wrought.

Kalamu ya Salaam pays honor to the next generation.

Historian Scott Brown brought his bass with him all the way from UCLA, and got up on stage with the poets both nights. The first evening he jammed with Kalamu ya Salaam; the second night brought us a spirited improvisation between Scott and Tracy Morris, which elicited two surprises: (1) Tracy Morris was a fan of the group Queen, (2) Tracy Morris turns out to have an excellent singing voice. These photos are by Howard Rambsy.

and then it was over -- the sweet air of funk clung to the grounds of Alabama -- it was hard to tear ourselves away.

1 comment:

evie said...


Thanks for the report on the Funk conference. I really wish I could have been there...

By the way, that last picture of you is terrific! Kudos to Howard for capturing you in a rare moment of rest. : )