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In 2004, after going through another difficult time in her personal life, John rented a studio

in Long Island City and turned to the roots riddims and wordplay wisdom of Bob Marley as a soulful

solace away from the burdens of her own world. "In my mind, Marley told me things I had never

heard, showed me things I had never seen and took me places I had never been"



Growth and Maturity in Textured Images

Why Chesiel Matters

 By Michael A. Gonzales


In October 2003, during an arty tribute to pioneering hip-hop group Run-DMC at the Eyejammie Gallery in Chelsea, Harlem-based artist Chesiel John stole the spotlight with a mixed media collage entitled "Only One." Though hardly the biggest piece in the show, her work commanded attention with its fiery vision and humor.

Months later, as I walked through her cluttered studio in Long Island City, I had the privilege of entering into an artistic wonderland of her wild styled, poetic images. Scattered throughout the room were bluesy portraits of Nina Simone and Miles Davis, impressionistic images of ghettoized boom boxes and streetlights, as well as countless sketches and cutout source material that served as inspiration for her work.

Coming from the Caribbean island of Trinidad, 30-year-old John has been interested in art since she was a child. "I always was trying to make something out of nothing," she says. Coming to New York City at the age of 14, John was shy about sharing her work with others. Yet, after classmates at Truman High School discovered her secret, John set out to make a difference with her work.

"I did a mural for the Stop the Violence program at school, and later won a medal for best artist. It was then that I started taking myself seriously," she says. The premature death of her mother shortly after arriving in the States also propelled her to move forward with her art.

After developing an extensive portfolio, she was accepted into the prestigious Parsons School of Design, which she completed while holding down two jobs. "Going to art school was weird and exciting, but I learned how to challenge myself and to make every line mean something," she says. On the art circuit since 2000, John's works are owned by Quincy Jones and Asked Bomani, wife of actor Danny Glover.

Considering herself “a disciple of Basquiat," the soft-spoken artist also has a fondness for jazz, calypso, and hip hop. "When you read interviews with Jean-Michel or Romare Bearden, writers often talk about them listening to jazz while painting," she recalls. "It is the same for me. Music is very important when it comes to my creations."

In 2004, after going through another difficult time in her personal life, John rented a studio in Long Island City and turned to the roots riddims and wordplay wisdom of Bob Marley as a soulful solace away from the burdens of her own world. "In my mind, Marley told me things I had never heard, showed me things I had never seen and took me places I had never been," she contends.

As the music became more dominant in her head, she says the spirit of Marley haunted her dreams. "I was so overcome; I knew I had to commit myself to expressing these visions before they were lost forever." Beginning with the "Concrete Jungle" painting, John created twenty small paintings like a woman possessed.

Three years after completing the Marley series, the young artist continues to explore other artistic forms while still taking gigantic risks. Without shame, Chesiel’s exquisite creations embrace everything from the neo-primitivism of Picasso to the gloomy portraits of Gordon Parks to the scary poetics of Billie Holiday. "It might sound weird, but I felt as though I was chosen to do those pieces," she says. Indeed. There is a growth and maturity in these textured images that was only hinted at in John's earlier work.

Indeed, her more recent works which includes the cover to Bronx Biannual 2 (Akashic Books) and a children’s book about Harlem, John's paintings have become even more startling in terms of her vision. "I've started taking more advantage of found items in my work. Merely walking through the streets of Harlem, I've discovered so many objects to incorporate in the collages."

With the soul of an outsider and the vision of a true auteur, staring at John's work is like walking through a vibrant dream where various lines and patterns flow fluidly and no concept is too wild.

Source: Blackadelic Pop / Other relevant links: Chesiel  /  Bronx Biannual  /  AkashicBooks   / Profile My Space

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michael a. gonzales—Harlem native—has written cover stories for Essence, Giant, Latina, XXL and Stop Smiling. A former writer-at-large for Vibe magazine, Gonzales has also been a staff writer for The Source, columnist for New York Press and a frequent contributor to the New York Daily News, the New York Post and NY Metro. He has also contributed articles to Spin, the Village Voice, Ego Trip, Trace and Entertainment Weekly.

Gonzales co-wrote the book Bring the Noise: A Guide to Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture (Random House, 1991).

Praised by writer/director Nelson George as “evidencing the mastery of detail required of a subject that is all about mastery of detail,” the book was a groundbreaking text in hip-hop literature.

Currently Michael A. Gonzales writes a regular music column called “On the Corner” for  and has written liner-notes for reissue collections including The Hip-Hop Box Set, the O’Jays, the Gap Band, the Crusaders and Al Green. Having written for MTV and BET, he also served as a consultant to the Experience Music Project’s (Seattle) inaugural Hip-Hop/Rap exhibit. He also contributed the essay “From Rockin’ the House to Planet Rock” to their catalogue Crossroads (2000).

In addition, Gonzales’ essays have appeared in Best Sex Writing 2005 edited by Violet Blue (Cleis Press), Beats, Rhymes & Life edited by Kenji Jasper (Harlem Moon, 2007) and Best Sex Writing 2006 edited Felice Neaman and Frederique Delacoste (Cleis Press). A 1999 Code magazine feature on Prince was reprinted the following year in the landmark music criticism collection Rock and Roll is Here to Stay edited by William McKeen (W.W. Norton & Company, 2000). “My Father Named Me Prince” appeared alongside pop culture pieces by Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion and Lester Bangs.

Gonzales has published fiction in Brown Sugar 2: A Collection of Erotic Black Fiction edited by Carol Taylor (Simon & Shuster, 2001), Bronx Biannual 2 edited by Miles Marshall Lewis (Akashic Books, 2007), Uptown magazine, Brown Sugar 3: When Opposites Attract edited by Carol Taylor (Simon & Shuster, 2003) and the upcoming superheroes collection Darker Mask edited by Gary Phillips and Christopher Chambers (Tor, 2008).

Gonzales’ short stories have also been published in France and England. Like Gypsy Rose Lee, Norman Mailer and Spike Lee before him, he lives in Brooklyn. 

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Generation Soul: Can Dru Hill Revive The Vocal Group?

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02_My_Story,_My_Song.mp3 (24503 KB)

(Kalamu reading "My Story, My Song"

Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the powerand the enormous risksof the dollar's worldwide reign.The Economy

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what's in your heart than what's in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America's shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy can make you money, but money can't make you happy."

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 27 April 2007




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