By Rebecca Walker
Kara Walker is tall, fashionable and reserved when I meet her in the lobby of the chic Residence Du Parc, a brutalist landmark of poured concrete adorned with iconic examples of modernist and postmodern art. Outside huge windows, Turin is celebrating itself: Italian flags drip from every window, flutter along every boulevard.
Kara wears flat leather oxfords, tights and a paper-thin leather jacket. She eyes me somewhat warily as I extend my arms for an embrace and launch into small talk, which I normally detest. Luckily, my bags have been lost and I indulged in a truly remarkable spa treatment the night before, so I have plenty to talk about.
She's been working on the installation of her show we're both here in Italy to support. The necessary projectors have not arrived. The show is to open in five days, and today we have to teach a class to art students. I sense she'd like to get back to the gallery, and the class is a distraction. She twirls her hair as we wait for the taxi.
At the class, the students are on fire. They've studied our work and want to know about memory and myth, the creative process and its demands. Kara and I sit behind a paint-splattered table and do our best. I'm jet-lagged but exuberant, thanks to a piping-hot cappuccino; Kara is laconic and soft-spoken. But then I see it -- a gentle smile, then a big laugh followed by a series of confident assessments of student work.
As the day wears on, we find a groove. We tag-team it, develop a rapport, give everything we can in the time allotted. Driving back to the Du Parc to recover and prepare for dinner, we talk about our kids. Hers is starting high school, into fashion, gorgeous. Mine is 6, getting ready for soccer camp, and I miss him with an ache I can't begin to put into words.
The next five days are a whirlwind of activity. We teach the students, I present my memoir Baby Love at Il Circolo dei Lettori on the same night that Jonathan Franzen reads from Freedom. I introduce Kara's show, A Negress of Noteworthy Talent, to a full gallery, and Melissa Harris-Perry and Jennifer Richeson follow up with talks about the black body and the neurological workings of prejudice. The press descends and recommends.
Egypt's Nawal El Saadawi: "We will not let Egypt Burn"
For five decades, the famed Egyptian physician/writer/feminist has been fighting the powers that be. The Root caught up with her just hours before President Mubarak stepped down.
The Root: Where are you now?
Saadawi: I am home in my apartment in Cairo, and we are preparing to go out into streets.
TR: Are you going to [Tahrir] Square?
NS: The Square is full. There is no more room in the square and so we have decided that we will be everywhere. Egyptians will be in every square, on every street, at the Presidential Palace, and at the national television station. We will be in every place. This revolution has unified us. We are not men and women, Christian and Muslim, professional and non-professional, we are all Egyptians and we will not let Egypt burn.
Rebecca Walker for The Root
Believe me, I do not want to cast aspersions on the famous Danish toy company that goes by the name "Lego Group." My 6-year-old is in love with the little plastic blocks and plays with them for hours at a time, leaving me to tap away blissfully on this keyboard that magically connects me to the Internet. Last week I even made my own first Lego creation and posted it on my Facebook page. It's called the Taj Mommal.
Imagine my surprise, then, when, while looking for holiday presents and blithely scrolling through the Lego offerings on the site, I came across a set for the 5- to 12-year-old Lego aficionado called -- are you ready? -- a Prisoner Transport vehicle. It has high user ratings and comes with a prisoner, a policeman and, well, a prisoner-transport vehicle with gated windows. I almost had a coronary. Is Lego normalizing the prison industrial complex to 5-year-olds?
I kept scrolling. Surely there was a tribunal set in which the guards who have been caught raping and abusing juvenile prisoners are held accountable for their actions. And what about a prisoner-DNA set, where our 6-year-old scientist pretends to discover that the prisoner doing the time didn't actually do the crime? How about the set designed after the peaceful prison strike in December in Georgia, where thousands of inmates -- black, white, Mexican and other -- put aside their gangbanging to make a statement about the human potential for greater good?
Rebecca Walker shares five ways out of the muck for all those not immediately feeling the happy new year vibe.
By Rebecca Walker
The dawn of 2011 has been mixed. Healthy family, busy writing life, and beautiful Hawaiian rain. Watched Inception and I Am Love, two brilliant films that inspired me no end. Patti Smith’s Just Kids is bringing me back to the magical vortex of New York--the mecca where somany of us began on this perilous road of love, life and art. I’m having one hell of a literary visit.
But honestly, I’ve also been feeling melancholy. I’m working on a book in its one-millionth draft, missing friends six thousand miles away, and shielding my eyes and soul from the news on more iGadgets than I can shake a stick at, Twitter and FB on iPhone, The New Yorker and The Guardian on iPad, cnn.com on my iMac. The world is looking bleak, people. Folks losing homes and jobs. America not living up to its ideals. Legos selling Prisoner Transport Vehicles as toys. Our lovely President looking exhausted and defeated. Sometimes it’s easy to be mesmerized by all that’s wrong. My husband says negativity is like a bullyon the playground, and he’s right. The bully is the same size as all the other kids, but seems so much bigger. Just thinking about that mean kid makes the heart pound with fear. Everything else falls away--your best friendand good grades, the leftover pizza from Chez Panisse your mom tucked into your lunchbox...
So how to keep our eyeson the prize? How to acknowledge the truly awful, but rob it of oxygen? How to banish that bully and magnetize the coolest bunch of friends a girl could ever want?Here are my tools to fan the hot flames of everything enlightening and regenerative. These are the ideas that bring me back from the ledge:
Rebecca Walker for The Root.
I'm all i-Ed out. At the moment I'm packing an iMac, iPad, iPod and iPhone, and David Pogue's review convinced me that I must have the new MacAir because, well, my iPad plus external keyboard just isn't cutting it for real work and real deadlines, no matter how many cool apps I've dutifully downloaded. I woke up this morning thinking that either I need each and every one of these devices to survive life on earth, or Steve Jobs is one of the biggest, baddest drug dealers of all time, and I'm addicted to hisproduct.
I've been using Macs since high school, when my father bought me a512K Enhanced Macintosh to bang out my college applications and I fell in love with the plug-and-play functionality designed for technologically challenged and manual-reading averse humans like myself. I use Macs today for those reasons and more. They're capable of amazing feats of digital wonder, and they drip with heart-stopping beauty.
But Apple really got me at "Think Different."The legendary campaign associated Apple users with Gandhi, John Lennon, Picasso, Einstein and Dr. King; who wouldn't want to be in that company? The bold, minimalist campaign suggested a seamless practice of company wide integrity that trumped all comers.
But things appear to be changing at Apple. At times, profit seems to be steering the ship. Some also say that Jobs has a scary God complex. And as a producer friend texted me the other day while we were waxing rhapsodic about the new MacAir, the company has consumers strung out, drinking Kool-Aid that may have been delish, organic and bursting with integrity 20 years ago, but today may be anything but.
The Root: How did your collaboration with Jay-Z begin?
Dream Hampton: Jay and I met over the phone. I'd reviewed his debut album, Reasonable Doubt,for the Village Voice and situated the record in what I considered ourgenerational zeitgeist: the billion-dollar crack industry. It was mycontention that back then in the '90s in New York, when everyone wasself-defining around hip-hop, selling crack had been as, or more,definitive: It included intergenerational schism, hyper-capitalism andcartoonish misogyny.
Boys were able to act out a fantasy of being a provider -- first byhelping their single moms with utility bills, later by takinggirlfriends on trips to the mall. I was interested in patriarchalpower, and the setback in intergender dynamics this crack-cash created.
I'd invoked all of that in a Voice review, and Jay, who thought I was a dude, asked to speak to me. He thanked me for the review and toldme he felt understood. I said, "Yeah, I'm from the east side of Detroitin the '80s; if there's one thing I understand, it's drug dealers."
"In ten years, 50 percent of the world will live in cities. The home is something that becomes an emotional incubator and resuscitator. It is not about tricks but about the way in which you reorient a person’s perceptions by focusing on water or on a tree or on a texture of a wall, making the home a meditative space."
Love, crave, dream of this house by the inspiring architect David Adjaye.
More from interview with him here, at New York Magazine.
“Unlike the ideas that we believe, myths are ideas that possess and govern us by means that are not logical, but psychological, and so rooted in the depths of our soul, where even the light of reason struggles toreach.
This is because myths are simple ideas that we have idolised because they are comfortable, they don’t create problems, they facilitate our judgement; in a word, they reassure us, removing any doubts concerning ourworld view, which unstressed by a succession of questions, calms our blessed consciences.
Free of all risk of interrogation, they confuse the sincerity of acceptance with the depth of sleep”.
Beinecke Library of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Yale, via Lily Diamond.
I spent many, many hours here. Watching the light shine through the marble walls, and staring at the Isamu Noguchi garden from the downstairs windows.
Just taught in Holland at the University of Utrecht. Scheduled to speak in Sweden next week.