WE DEM DAT BLAK: White Surveillance of Black arts and Life.

"Art is Business,"  
Tactical Urbanism in the Horizontal Landscape presents Renee Baker; all films start from 6pm to 10pm.

James Baldwin knew and spoke about the malicious treatment, scalping, and appropriation of all things black. WE DEM DAT BLAK is a phonetic device to make "others" look at how much they emulate and steal from black cultural, all while putting black cultural at an even lower caste than whites in poverty. The prose speaks for itself. RB 2022.

It's a funny way of being
We diddle daddle and poke fun at each other
BUT WHeN We see you saintering by, side-eyeing us,  

wondering what the private joke is

Wondering what we have to laugh at

We straighten up and switch the code

We have developed the art of putting you off the scent, black scent.

You think we're dawdlin'.
We just drifted to another planet.
And all you can do is gander.

As we sashay down OUR Blvd
Strolling like cocks of the walk



We dem dat blak and we don't have to share that with anyone else.

We've perfected the drift
Drifting in
Drifting out
Drifting left
Drifting right

In and out of your universe
But you don't have a key to ours.

Oh, you take swipes at it.
Wearing dashikis
Twerking, jerking, smirking
Even wearing braids

But that's not it
And you can practice on Tiktok
Til you're purple... It's our wealth
Owned by A people like no other
Tested, pressed down

But the Art of being Black
The real art of being black
Can't be taught
It can't be bought
It can't be swiped
It can't be bottled

It just is..what it is..a great pride
And we are the proof of the beauty
Deep within the many-hued beauty of our people

We know our value
We know our glow
Inside and out

Renee C Baker

Curatorial Projects produced by Renee baker include:

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From the community:

Dear James Baldwin relatives Dan Baldwin and Carole Weinstein.
Posted by stanwest1, Community Contributor
Author James Baldwin was the subject of Renee Baker's brilliant neopera "The Baldwin Chronicles: Midnight Ramble" at CSO this weekend.

Author James Baldwin was the subject of Renee Baker's brilliant neopera "The Baldwin Chronicles: Midnight Ramble" at CSO this weekend. (Posted by stanwest1, Community Contributor)
Community Contributor stanwest
You asked me to send you copies of the program from Renee Baker's "The Baldwin Chronicles: Midnight Ramble" that opened last night at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

It was powerfully poignant, illustrating his poems and prose utilizing her video, music, and lyrics. I'm sending you the programs, as promised. But I just felt I needed to send you so much more.

We all miss him very much, especially family members like you and his longtime friends who affectionately called him "Jimmy." Unfortunately, I only met him in '86, a year before he died. To me, he was "Mr. Baldwin." My writing teacher, Ishmael Reed, giving him a well-deserved award for being North America's best essayist, invited me to "Come to meet Jimmy." Pardon my French, but this is how it went down.

Je lui ai dit que comme un adolescent , je l'ai lu deux de ses livres de la bibliothèque de mes parents. Pendant ce temps, les Black Panthers , qui étaient un jeune groupe militant que je savais , renvoyé à lui comme " un révolutionnaire de café " qui n'a pas été assez en colère . Il m'a regardé dans les yeux et m'a dit: " Montrez-moi un nigga dont pas en colère et Je vais vous montrer un imbécile . " Je me suis assis en pensant que peut-être je venais d'être appelé un imbécile par Baldwin .

As a teen, I read a couple of his books from my parent's bookcase. During that time, Black Panthers, a young militant group I knew, referred to him as a "café revolutionary who was not angry enough." He looked me in the eye and told me, "Show me a nigga who's not angry, and I'll show you a fool." I sat thinking that maybe I had just been called a fool by Baldwin.

I believe you both heard me share this story in French and English at the 2016 James Baldwin Conference at the University of Paris, Dan Baldwin and Carole Weinstein. I recalled Carole smiling when I mused, "Since I had been called a fool by lesser individuals, I took Mr. Baldwin's words as a compliment." Unfortunately, as we all know, he died the following year, angry, I suspect.

Renee Baker's brilliant "neoopera" (which is how she describes her oft-abstract musical mosaic) showcased how some Whites felt he was "too angry" and some Blacks thought he was "not angry enough" - themes that emerged in his own writing that powered the Academy Award-nominated 2016 Raoul Peck-directed documentary, "I Am Not Your Negro."

Maestra Baker invited me to open the night by reading Baldwin's poem, "The Giver," that begins, "If the hope of giving/is to love the living/the giving gives madness/in the act of giving"… and ends quite angrily, "And he turns in his guilty bed to stare/at the starving multitudes standing there/and rises from bed to curse the heavens/he must understand that to whom much is given/much will be taken, and rightly so/I cannot tell how much I owe." So I did my very best.

The standing-room-only opera with Chicago's cultural elite packed rather closely in Symphony Center's Buntrock Hall featured baritone singer Robert Sims who bellowed, "I am Black, and I'm Gay, and that's why you can't stand me" to a crowd stunned by the ferocity of the truthful lyrics. I sat next to music educator Barbara Wright Pryor. Pryor smiled as this extraordinary operatic movement addressed the values and aspirations of ordinary people in AAN's 3rd Annual Black History Month Celebration co-sponsored by Phumzile Pride Mazibuko, Chicago's South African Consulate General.

As the brilliant Maestra waved her arms and rocked her shoulders to the liberation anthems of singers Cornelius Johnson, Dee Alexander, Sheila Anne Dawson Jones (founder-director of CSO's African American Network that sponsored the night's event) & Taalib Din Ziyad (whose singer-son, Saalik Ahmad Ziyad, died a few days prior and was unable to perform). Baker put her head done as Ziyad sang in deference to his son's recent demise, she later said.

Freedom songs were the night's bread and butter. Speaking of freedom, in the post-concert Q&A where this reporter was recruited to moderate, a prominent South African intellectual raised a provocative question that perhaps the opera did not adequately answer whether or not Baldwin's prophetic call for freedom would be answered. I responded in Zulu, saying, "Freedom is what freedom does." I added, "Dan Baldwin and Carole Weinstein, who could not leave New York City to be present at tonight's historical event, send Renee Baker praise for trying to keep Jimmy's freedom dreams alive."

Dear Dan Baldwin and Carole Weinstein, I believe your famous relative smiled at the night's magnificent effort. It accessed Baldwin's tears and fears in music and rhyme. Humanist attacks against gentrification were heard in lyrics and language though Baker argued, "My work is apolitical." Working-class woes amid a White supremacy backdrop were poetically tender. Moral capitalism meets compassionate humanism that cynics simplistically label socialism were among the tense quandaries underneath the sublime sounds.

Consider this: lines expertly sung by soloists languishing a "wall" instead of a bridge to understanding inspired the audience to hold hands with performers who belted out several verses of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and "We Shall Overcome." What a finale!

Dear Dan Baldwin and Carole Weinstein. As you know, I just sent a U.K. literary agent and a U.K. publisher the rough draft of my "James Baldwin's Black Lives Blues" that I promised to soon share with you. If you think I got the public story right about his views on police brutality, now called euphemistically police misconduct, and the personal story about how several generations of Black straights and gays in my family, including my Black-Mexican-Italian-transgender cousin, Rabbi Ramona Hernandez, maybe you'll add a cover comment. Distant relative Dr. Tara Betts, a blues poet, has offered her terse verse, too. We think the intersectionality of our local, national, and international narrative fares better with U.K. packaging than here in AmeriKKKa, at least right now in this violent Trumpocalypse era of White fragility.

In sum, as I reflect on last night's musical tribute, I believe that your famous relative would beam witnessing the blues, gospel, jazz, classical, zydeco gumbo tour de force called "The Baldwin Chronicles: Midnight Ramble," to which I think if he were alive, he'd take a knee. Maestra Renee Baker said there are two other musical movements yet to come. She hinted she'll invite all of us to the party.-Stan West

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Renee' Clark Baker
Chicago Modern Orchestra Project
Mantra Blue Free Orchestra
RCB Arts Management