Tuesday, March 21, 2006

“The Ballad of Robert Charles and the Sorrow Songs”


"The Ballad of Robert Charles and the Sorrow Songs" date: 2002 medium: ink pen and whiteout size: 4'x8'


Story

Robert Charles was a proud Black native Mississippian who went to live in New Orleans around the dawn of the 20th Century. Mr. Charles was self-educated, highly intelligent and very well read. He followed the teachings of the controversial and radical Black leader/ Pan Africanist Bishop Henry M. Turner. Bishop Henry M. Turner, a native of Georgia, U.S.A., preached that Blacks should defend themselves with guns against the Ku Klux Klan and other White racist institutions that sought to destroy and kill Black people in the United States. Being a man of religion and action, Turner also urged Blacks to start seeing God the Benevolent and Merciful One in their own image instead of in the popular image of the oppressors which belittled their humanity and labeled them inferior.

Robert Charles also felt that Black people should consider returning to their ancestral homeland of Africa (in particular, the nation of Liberia –which was founded by former Black U.S. slaves in 1822) to escape from the White supremacist power structure in the U.S.A. Mr. Charles was also a sales agent for Turner’s magazine, Voice of Missions, which talked about some of the previously mentioned beliefs in exact full detail and analysis. In 1896 Robert Charles joined the International Migration Society, a group which advocated sending Black Americans to Liberia.

Mr. Charles honestly felt that no Black person would ever receive full treatment as a citizen and human being in a country where the violent lynching of a Black person took place everyday. This country was also the same place where Blacks were not even allowed to vote or receive equal treatment and protection under the law (the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling of 1896 by the U.S. Supreme Court had legalized segregation). This, in theory, meant that Blacks were allowed to be treated separately but as equals of Whites. However, in reality this meant that Blacks were forced by law to endure harsher, more unfair and inferior treatment by Whites. One day Robert Charles became infuriated after hearing the grisly news of the fate of a Black man in Atlanta named Sam Hose. Hose was ruthlessly lynched by a large White mob for killing his White boss in self defense and allegedly raping his boss’s White wife. The rape allegation later proved to be false as Mr. Hose was nowhere near the house at the time the alleged rape took place. The lynching of Sam Hose by all accounts was very gruesome and traumatic. Mr. Hose’s nose, ears, toes, fingers, genitals and tongue were all cut off while he was alive causing him great excruciating pain. He was also skinned alive, doused with kerosene and set on fire while tied to a tree. Hose’s mutilated body parts and postcards of the tragic event were later sold at stores, picnics, and other functions throughout the Atlanta area. This horrible and tragic event and its aftermath troubled and inspired the great human rights activist and social scientist Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois (a professor at Atlanta University at the time of Hose’s demise). Du Bois started to take and engage in a more proactive, progressive, and demonstrative stance on equal rights for Blacks that eventually led to the formation of the N.A.A.C.P. and to the Modern American Civil Rights Movement However, for Robert Charles , an expert marksman and gun owner, the sickening ghoulish affair meant getting revenge paid for in blood and violence.

On July 23, 1900 , a hot and steamy night in New Orleans, Robert Charles and a friend were confronted by aggressive and racist cops on the “ the suspicion of being suspicious” while waiting for his girlfriend and her female companion on the steps of her residence. After being physically assaulted by the cops, Robert Charles drew his gun in self defense and fired at the two cops. Later, one of the officers, Officer August Mora admitted that he did draw his gun first. Charles was injured in the leg after being hit with return fire. He escaped police custody and for several days in July 1900 New Orleans erupted in thunderous riots and chaos. The New Orleans Riot of 1900 was one of the worst in American history. The Black section of New Orleans was decimated by a large and furious White citizen mob. Many innocent Blacks were killed including ‘White folks that looked Black’. Estimates stated that as many as 5,000 to 10,000 Whites from different parts of Louisiana as well as from several states took part in the melee. Eventually Robert Charles made his last stand on Friday afternoon July 27. Before Charles was taken out by a 19 year old medical student at 1208 Saratoga Street in New Orleans, he made sure his Winchester rifle did a lot of talking. Of the 50 rounds that Charles shot 27 found human targets. In all, Charles killed seven White people including 4 police officers. After Robert Charles was killed, the White mob proceeded to fill Robert Charles lifeless corpse with bullets (37 in all) and to beat and stomp him beyond recognition. His body was later taken away by a patrol wagon for autopsy. Charles was buried early Sunday morning on July 29 in an unmarked grave at Holt Cemetery (the same place where jazz legend Buddy Bolden is buried) to prevent the White mob from “re-lynching” and mutilating the body for souvenir and sales items. Later, jazz and blues musicians paid tribute to Robert Charles and his heroic stand by playing a song entitled “The Ballad of Robert Charles”, a song which cemented Robert Charles’ place as a Black folk hero for many in the Black community. Unfortunately, the song is lost to posterity because many musicians “forgot” the song due to fear of retaliation from White patrons and White people in general. Many Whites, as well as some Blacks, were eager to forget and not address the causes and effects of that particularly sad episode in American history.


Bibliography

Hair,William Ivy, Carnival of Fury, Louisiana State University Press; 1986.

Warner, Coleman, “Fury Revisited” in Times Picayune, July 25,2000.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A TRIBUTE TO MY DARLING UNCLE ARTHUR...A TRUE 'SOUL'DIER R.I.P.


Uncle Arthur up close at a moment of clarity. (1963-2003)


My Uncle Arthur was always able to stand out from a crowd...Here he is pictured with me (in the Bart Simpson sweater)and some of my very good friends from college attending my first professional one man art show opening, R2C2H2: Evolution of a Style at the Vaughn Cultural Center of The St. Louis Urban League---January 2002 (feautured from left to right Nate Dogg, Mr. B, Glory and Mags, I know sounds like characters from a Quentin Tarantino movie!!!)



This is the actual funeral speech I gave at my Uncle Arthur's funeral on August 2, 2003...Uncle Arthur was my mother's youngest brother who finally succumbed to complications from the HIV and AIDS viruses on July 27,2003...He was a truly beautiful human being who is the only person I truly never seen get really mad and act bitter towards anyone in my 23 years of knowing him...A class act...He is truly missed and died before his time...When you read the text you will understand why many people got mad at me for saying it (this speech has helped me earn the title of Mr. Controversy in my family,but I will now let you, the reader, decide if what I said is really controversial or just truth speaking...

My Darling Uncle Arthur Taylor Jr. wore the crown of a saint. He was more in tune with things other worldly and spiritual than most people are with their VCR clocks and income taxes!!! Arthur was a people magnet. Arthur was so charming and witty that people found themselves actually at ease with his sometimes erratic and impatient yet comforting and likable persona. I have bore witness to many occasions where Arthur was able to change the very mood and atmosphere of a place by simply walking in a room and saying something in his native tongue. No matter if they laughed or not (most times someone did) Arthur was able to get some substantial response from the audience HIS Audience. You see no matter where Arthur went he seemed to be the center of attention…It seemed that everything and everyone revolved around the radiant sun of his universe a.k.a. Mr. Arthur Taylor Jr. He had The Gift of Gab. Arthur could make you believe the most outlandish of schemes and stories. Arthur could have been a master politician. Arthur also exhibited a genius for the art of story telling. He was the Black Man’s version of Mark Twain because he told stories based on things that could only happen in Arthur’s world through a combination of sophisticated humor combined with straight on point social commentary. Like Twain, Arthur’s World had its own set of rules, characters, and language/slang. I learned the art of telling jokes from Uncle Arthur somewhat forced because he was a loquacious motor mouth who loved attention (MUCH LIKE MYSELF). Instead of using the mighty Mississippi River, river boats and small river town life as back drops like Twain did, My Uncle used the buses and bus stops, Lincoln Park and overall aspects of big city life as inspirations for his masterpieces. Arthur in all aspects was true BLACK STAR POWER in the realest sense of the word.

Sometimes we as people and individuals are more concerned with living in comfort and convenience than living in truth and righteousness If you really want to know the truth Arthur did not die from A.I.D.S. or H.I.V. BUT FROM IGNORANCE, NEGLECT, AND DENIAL. Arthur was a victim of rape many times over but became a victor for life many times stronger for he refused to let his past and his failings to keep him from believing in better days. One thing that kept Arthur empowered was his unique sense of humor. Arthur’s humor-like many of the greatest comedians of all times-was both based in tragedy and spirituality…Because it was the tragedy of his disease and his victimization that helped fuel his humor, a humor which helped eased his pain as well as the pain of others. His development and nurturing of his gift of humor helped bring him closer to the awesome and titanic source of The Creator. Arthur prolifically and efficiently used his humor to turn even his darkest and most pessimistic times into lessons for others, including me, about hope and living in unconditional love.

We should not feel sorry for what we think was Arthur’s so-called demise. A.I.D.S. was a gift…Yes I said A.I.D.S. was a gift to let Arthur understand something we all tend to forget: That life is short and very fragile and that he still have some great and significant things to achieve, but must be very selective in what he chose to focused on. Arthur was given a chance to not only repent and to forgive others for wrongs committed against him, but to also teach GOD’S message. Arthur was GOD’s personal messenger. Arthur was a Biblical figure. Our Arthur??? How was that so you may ask??? People seem to forget that many of the most courageous and righteous of Biblical heroes were professional all star sinners before and after they became full-fledged Saints. Noah was a drunk, which would give us a good explanation why people may not have believed him about the coming of The Great Flood. King David was a man who conquered Goliath, but could not conquer his lust for another man’s wife, which brought him to kill that man for the quenching of his lust. Paul was first and foremost a ruthless cold-blooded killer of man before being converted into a GOD fearing and loving devotee and servant to the Gospel we know and forever celebrate. Even Jesus found his following stronger among the prostitutes and criminals than among the so-called moral and ethical institutions of his day. The list goes on and on, but my point is that GOD will use the so-called most despised, the lowliest, the lonely, the hopeless and the worthless of our society to effect change.
Whether we recognize it or not Arthur has taught many of us very important lessons on life and faith.

For example, Arthur taught me patience because I often found my self, when my mom was not able, taking him to his doctor’s appointments because of the distance and the long wait it sometimes entailed. Arthur taught me courage because regardless of how bad his outer appearance was worsened by his condition he still had the gall and audacity to face each day with increased assurance and walked outside to a destiny only known to him. He refused to let this so-called death sentence control his life to where he was scared to live his life. It’s amazing how Arthur hypnotized people. Strangers were not even scared to touch or talk to him despite the fact that his lips were covered with dark tough scabs and his immense spitting/ saliva output because of his speech impediment. This tells me that he not only won their hearts, but their respect as well because they saw beyond his outward appearance beyond his outward appearance and found his wonderful and good-hearted humanity. They saw Arthur as a total human being when many, including me, at times could not. At times I thought of Arthur as being a burden and a waste of time because I felt that he was drinking his life away and letting A.I.D.S. win. Now I realize that the drinking was not the true problem it was only a symptom. Arthur’s true problem(s) were his doubts about who he was and what was his purpose haunted his ever wakening moment in this life. You see Arthur was molested and victimized by a family friend and neighbor during childhood years, the years where you develop your foundation for your lifelong sense of identity. Arthur never received professional therapy for these traumatic experiences but received plenty of insults, indifference, hatred, disrespect and labels of faggot, cross dresser, and homo. Although he had the unconditional love and support of his family, this could not help fill the huge void that occurred after a part of him was unmercifully killed by a soul dead and jaded human being. How can anyone comfort him, including family, when he and he alone had to endure and live with these human debasing and savage acts committed upon his person and against his will. Instead of getting back into the normalcy of his previous life his life’s void gradually increased and Arthur digressed into a self- destructive alcoholic and unprotected sex-consuming binge. Arthur wanted a wife and kids but people and his demons would not let him forget that he was raped and that it was meant for him to be a so-called faggot and punk for the rest of his life. He must have thought he was responsible for another human being's monstrosity and hatred being unleashed upon him. Since he was being called and haunted by all these sub-human labels what’s to say that he did not deserve his fate of hell on earth??? GOD DEFINITELY KNEW THE RIGHT ANSWER TO THAT COMPLEX QUESTION AND YOU CAN DEFINITELY BELIEVE THAT ARTHUR KNEW THAT ANSWER BEFORE HE DEPARTED TO THE NEXT DIMENSION!!!

Arthur wanted like all of us to be able to receive love and give it in return. Given that he was human Arthur have on occasions went through the wrong channels to try to claim this holiest of grails, but in the end he paid for it like Christ did through his life’s blood. Some may say that Arthur did not live his life to its fullest potential. Some may say that Arthur won’t see the so-called holiest of gates and the saint of saints, St. Peter, because of his lifestyle choices. Let me leave you with these parting thoughts. Arthur may not have been the most perfect of role models or at times the most ethical (name me one person who is all these things at all times), but Arthur was at all times human which made him perfectly fine with GOD, who made Arthur in his image. When you realize this you will understand that Arthur will get to his rightful and just destination(s). Your and mine approval/opinion of his soul’s final resting place will not matter because GOD’S OPINION WHICH EQUATES TO GOD’S LAW IS THE ONLY QUALIFIER THAT MATTERS. We humans, not the Devil contrary to popular belief, give each other hell, grief, and torment. If GOD actually thought and act like us then no one and I mean no one would be able to bask in GOD’S GLORY. GOD IS LOVE IN ITS TRUEST FEELING, IS TRUTH IN ITS BRIGHTEST LIGHT, HOPE AT ITS HIGHEST ALTITUDE, AND FAITH IN ITS STRONGEST ELEMENT.GOD LOVED MY UNCLE ARTHUR BECAUSE GOD BROUGHT HIM THE PEACE OF MIND AT THE END OF HIS LIFE THAT no one or thing could bring and that no one or thing will take away from him again. Uncle Arthur you are not gone or won’t be forgotten. Like one of your favorite all time songs you were definitely one in a million. May you travel in peace and comfort on the universal spiritual highway called eternity.

GOD BLESS YOU MY NUTTY BUTTY FRIEND!!!

Friday, March 10, 2006

MY OPEN LETTER TO MS. AFENI SHAKUR THE MOTHER OF 2PAC






This letter was written in the summer of 2001, the summer before my fourth and final year at Washington University in St. Louis...So far to my knowledge I haven't been successful in getting this letter to Ms. Shakur or her representatives...Hopefully someone will see this letter on this blog and bring it to the great Ms. Shakur's attention because I am still very much interested in doing the album cover art for 2Pac's 'final' C.D.


Dear Ms. Afeni Shakur,
It is such an honor and pleasure to finally be able to touch bases with you. I have been a fan of your son ever since I saw him on “Juice” and heard “Brenda’s got a baby”. Your son was truly a “genius” and like so many geniuses he was terribly misunderstood. When I heard he died on Friday the 13th ,1996 I was shocked and outraged. It was like hearing that the president of the United States got assassinated because I knew I would never forget where I was or what I was doing and how I reacted when I heard the tragic news.

Your son’s rapping style (grossly imitated by many simply for money gains) went beyond the hip hop category. It was like hearing the pains, hopes, miseries, preservation, and happiness of a darker race of people articulated through a quick, sharp, and witty mind with the unrelenting passion and restlessness of a well traveled and wise bluesman. To me your son was the closest thing the hip hop generation ever had to a Robert Johnson or a John Lee Hooker, all three are masterful storytellers with commanding presence and superior talent. His simple(not easy!!!) and direct delivery with precise articulation often reminds me of the jazz trumpeter/ creative genius Miles Davis. Both artists are seriously imitated, yet few if any can correctly articulate the fluency, agility, fragility, and nuances in which both men displayed in their respective mediums which expressed their true passion for living and their deep sensitivity for the human experience.

I once read that Tupac often compared himself to being like the painter Vincent Van Gogh, but unlike Van Gogh (who sold only one painting in his brilliant yet tragically short art career) Tupac sold more than just one c.d. in his lifetime (he sold millions as you well know!!!). Like the 19th century artist Tupac was very, very spiritual and his knowing about things transcended the earthly plane. I also know like Van Gogh that Tupac was under appreciated, but after death both men’s prolific and artistic outputs(both men‘s works are heavily rich in spirituality) were able to influence an army of artists and impersonators and will continue to inspire and influence generations not yet even born. I strongly feel that anything mix with spirituality and God is universal and transcends all manmade barriers, including time and goes on for infinity. This is why I know Tupac’s legacy will stay intact for a long, long while.

Finally, I admire Tupac’s impeccable work ethic. Somebody once told me what separated the good from the great is the fact that the great ones are always constantly practicing on improving and refining their craft(s) while the good ones are always satisfied too easily and are less ambitious because they do not want much out of life. Although he died early I truly feel that Tupac lived a full life because it seems like he made sure every minute, second, hour, day, month, and year counted. How do I know this? If anyone studies Tupac’s artistic output one can clearly see that he experienced the whole range of human emotions from joyfulness to sadness. He was also able to achieve and do what too many are afraid and not driven enough to do; he lived and breathed life into his dreams and did it on his own terms. Not many people Black, White, Red, Brown, Yellow, rich, poor, middle class or otherwise can truly say that!!!

Currently, I am an art student entering my fourth and last year
at “prestigious” Washington University in St. Louis. During my residency there I have endured many trials, tribulations and triumphs. One hardship is that many professors, except a small few, have misunderstood me and my intentions from day one. Some have called me slow,unteachable and one even threw books and erasers at me in class and called me clown in Spanish. Others have said that my artwork was “too black” and disturbing for many of the white students and still others have went so far as to sabotage my final grades in their classes. But through all the rain and the pain I am still able to keep my sense of humor and head up and all eyez on the prize. Through the grace of God I am still able to rise and face down any situation that may present itself. So far I have been able to manage a 3.1 grade point average and get myself published in the St. Louis American, St. Louis’s Black newspaper. Right now I am on the verge of implementing after school programs which would teach inner city kids music and art history from an African American perspective. From studying your background as a Black Panther and researching Tupac’s career, I know that it takes discipline and organization to make things and changes happen. I also know that it takes courage, self-confidence, and a strong faith in God to make those things materialize as well. So I, through experience, know what Frederick Douglass stated was profoundly true when he said, “without struggle there is no progress”.

One of my dreams for many years has always been to illustrate one of your son’s c.d. covers. I tried to enter the “Until the End of Time” c.d. cover contest, but I could not download to the site successfully. So I have made it my mission to find and send you just “a few” printed examples of some of the original artworks I did with Tupac as the inspiration. Hopefully I can succeed with your help and through God’s goodwill in achieving that life goal. I also hope to have a true one man art show somewhere in the near future showcasing the whole range of my life’s work.

Well Ms. Shakur I am very grateful and humble by the time you spent reading this letter of praise for you and your son’s life works and achievements (for whatever is the son’s is the mom’s as well!!!). I sincerely hope to hear from and work with you in the near future.
Sincerely and artistically yours,
A friend, artist, and comrade in the struggle, the human struggle…
Ronald Herd II (R2C2H2)

P.S.
To see more 2PAC ART created by yours truly please click HERE




More 2Pac On W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio...

Check out 2Pac's lost 1992 interview...The Thug Life Holy Grail!!!
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2006/09/check-out-2pacs-lost-1992-interviewthe.html

Happy Birthday 2Pac!!! *June 16, 1971-September 13, 1996*
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2006/06/happy-birthday-2pac-june-16-1971.html


Good Knight???
http://weallbe.blogspot.com/2007/03/good-knight.html

The Cos Got No Love For Pac Nor His Mom...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Artivist In Action: Ronald Herd (R2C2H2) Teaches The Community Through Art.
LIMELIGHT November 2005


"ARTIVIST" PURSUES DREAM : Painter, Author,Musician, Volunteer, Memphis native and Washington University graduate Ronald Herd, 25, has quit Substitute Teaching to focus fully on his art. He frequently travels around the country to display his drawings and promote his self-published book, "James Reese Europe: Jazz Lieutenant". Photo by Carl Hess II.


Herd is an 'artivist' combining his art and afrocentric and humanist sensibilities. "I try to synthesize everyone I meet, everything I read and see with my own DNA and experiences. I'm terrifically influenced by others art, including the masters and by music and my own spiritual connection to God and His Universe. I truly feel connected to the present and the past , tremendously eager about the future and my journey. Let me amend that to the earth and it's inhabitants journey in the cosmos. R2C2H2 is pictured here with his high school art teacher the great Dr. Emily 'Boo' Ruch at the opening reception of his one person exhibition, R2C2H2: In The Black, in the Ross Gallery at Christian Brothers University of Memphis,Tn (April 8, 2005). R2C2H2 is only the third African American to have had an exhibition at the venue. Photo by Carl Hess II.


FIRST OF MANY: "James Reese Europe: Jazz Lieutenant" is Ronald Herd's book on the Composer/Music Publisher/Theatrical Producer/World War I Hero. The book is split between text that tells Lt. Europe's story and drawings by Herd that pull the reader into the narrative. Herd's approach to history has already won recognition; the book was recently named to the Smithsonian Institute's "Jazz Books for Kids and Young Adults" list. He hopes that his books will demolish the thought that it takes one person to manufacture social change. "It takes a group of people to get things going," says Herd.


Herd's art and writing have already brought the young artist to the attention of the art community nationally. It has also allowed him to travel and meet "so many diverse people". It has been a great side benefit for me. Here is at a gallery showing of his works (R2C2H2: Evolution of a Style,2002) at St. Louis' own Vaughn Cultural Art Center with Elaine Brown, the first and only female President of The Black Panthers. Herd refers to himself as an 'Artivist'. An artivist is an activist who combines the two disciplines.

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY THE BRILLIANT AND GREAT MR. B HIMSELF, BYRON LEE, A DEAR SUPPORTER AND FRIEND OF THE R2C2H2 EXPERIENCE...YOU CAN ALSO FIND THIS ARTICLE IN THE NOVEMBER 2005 ISSUE OF THE LIMELIGHT http://www.limelightnews.com/ , THE POPULAR ST. LOUIS REGION BLACK MONTHLY NEWSZINE...YOU CAN CONTACT MR. B THE GIFTED ARTIST OF WORDS AT THE FOLLOWING E-MAIL ADDRESS: BYRONLEE3@YAHOO.COM

Conversations with Ronald Herd, a self-proclaimed “Artivist” (artist meets activist), are captivating journeys through the pop cultural, political, and historical landscape. He voices his thoughts in a Southern baritone intermittently accented with a booming cackle of a laugh; he peppers those thoughts with references to everyone from Barry Bonds and Usher to Robert Johnson and John Bolton. The listener struggles between effortlessly going along for the ride and repeatedly asking, “Can you repeat that?”

It is Herd’s charismatic personality and wide-ranging intelligence that has allowed him to make a name for himself as an artist both in St. Louis and in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Herd, 25, has dedicated himself to educating people about the contributions of blacks through his art, and he sees no limit in how that art manifests itself.

His artistic journey began early in life. He developed a speech impediment at the age of 2. “My words would run together when I talked”, remembers Herd, “so I channeled my frustrations into my drawings.” He had more strife during his early school years. As a student in the Memphis Public School system, he was shuffled from school to school and misunderstood by many of his teachers. He would find solace in the schools’ libraries. “It was a way for me to feed my mind,” says Herd, who, thanks to his knowledge of American Presidents, earned a reputation for being one of the smartest kids in his class, even before he started making the Honor Roll.

His thirst for knowledge was noticed by his mother, Callie, a Computer Programmer who is heavily involved in community activism. Ms. Herd bought a World Book Encyclopedia set for her son; the youngster immediately started researching historical figures. Ms. Herd further nurtured her son’s interest by enrolling him in the Memphis Schools’ CAPA program (Creating And Performing Arts), a program that lasted from his 7th-12th grade years. “It allowed me to focus on my craft and take it seriously,” says Herd of the program. Finally, a twist of fate occurred when Herd was one of 15 blacks out of 250 students accepted into Tennessee’s Governor’s School program the summer before his senior year at Overton High School. Herd says that his experience in the program taught him how to interact with different groups of people. “There were people there who did not like the work that I did, but they eventually grew to respect me.”

One person who liked Herd and respected his work was Georgia Binnington, Associate Dean of the Washington University School of Art. Ms. Binnington, who was at the Memphis College of Art as part of National Portfolio Day, was so struck by Herd’s entries in the festival that she suggested that he apply for the University’s John B. Ervin Program, a program that provides a full scholarship. Herd was accepted.

Herd’s passion for art would unexpectedly take focus while Herd was sitting in an 8am class during his freshman year. He was watching a documentary on experimental jazz icon Sun Ra when he heard the legend make the statement that would become Herd’s credo: “Space is the Place.” Sun Ra’s quote has been used by several people, but Herd believes that many people have missed the true meaning of the statement. “You look at his garb, and you would think that he is talking about the cosmos, outer space. What he was really talking about was the space between your two ears, your mind, your brain. Your imagination is a very powerful tool. You can create whatever you want to. Use it as a tool and empower yourself and others with it.”

Inspired by both Sun Ra and the University’s “Introduction to Ragtime” course, Herd started studying jazz and blues musicians on his own. He was even more invigorated by what he read. “The early practitioners of jazz and blues were very powerful musically, even though a lot of them were not very rich socio-economically speaking. Their music was able to change people’s minds about a lot of things, it was able to start a lot of controversy, and it was able to get a lot of things moving.”

Herd started putting more historical information into his work. He also realized early on that if he was going to reach people, he would have to work on his own to make sure that his work was seen. He started searching through the Internet relentlessly in order to find openings in galleries. He also took the bull by the horns and booked one-man shows at the Sheldon and the Urban League. He was the youngest artist at the 2001 Art St. Louis display (where he made his first sale, the Charlie Parker-inspired “Bird In Flight,” for $1500) and, a few months later, he was one of 50 recipients, out of 14,000 applicants, to receive the $1,000 Double Mint Grant Award.

Adhering to his pledge to reach people, Herd also took part in the Chips In Motion Reach to Teach program, where members of disadvantaged communities are taught about health through the arts. Herd loved the equality demonstrated in the program. “There were older people and younger people, and everyone was teaching each other. No one was above anyone else. That is what education should be,” says Herd.

Herd graduated from Washington University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Printmaking/Drawing in the Spring of 2002 (he actively recruits black students for the school). He continued creating art while simultaneously working as a Substitute Teacher when he read “A Life In Ragtime,” Reid Badger’s biography of Composer/Music Publisher/Theatrical Producer/World War I Hero Lieutenant James Reese Europe. He then saw an opportunity to further educate an audience that would not normally be exposed to historical information. “Most people are not going to read a 300 page book. Some may not even read a 100 page book. I’ve always sprinkled historical facts in my work, so I saw writing a book on James Europe as an extension of that.”

Herd’s self-published book, “James Reese Europe: Jazz Lieutenant” (which can be purchased from Herd’s website, www.r2c2h2.com, or from www.booksurge.com) is seventy-five pages almost equally split between text that tells Lt. Europe’s story and drawings by Herd that pull the reader into the narrative. Herd’s approach to history has already won recognition; the book was recently named to the Smithsonian institute’s “Jazz Books for Kids and Young Adults” list. “During his day, [Europe] was one of the most popular black men in North America. He organized the first black musicians union in our country. For him to be written out of Jazz History is a sham.”

Herd has decided to quit teaching and to pursue his art fulltime. He has several books ready for publication, and he hopes to continue to be both a resource and an inspiration for his audience “I want people to see in my work and my persona that it is okay to mess up and be rejected. As long as you get back up and follow your dreams, you can’t go wrong.”
Guest Author, Lecturer R2C2H2 Enjoys Reception at Northern Virginia Community College Annandale Campus 10/18/2005



Librarian Ellen Wertman, “artivist” R2C2H2, and library specialist Nathaniel Brown
share a laugh before the October 17 reception and book signing.
Photo by Tricia Holser, Public Information


Ronald Cortez Herd II, also known as R2C2H2
Photo by Jeff Prater, LRS


Faculty, staff and students enjoyed a sumptuous luncheon reception, hosted by the Annandale Campus library, for “artivist” Ronald Cortez Herd II, also known as R2C2H2.
Against a background display of Herd’s art (he works in ink, wite-out®, acrylics and markers), he signed copies of his award-winning book, James Reese Europe: Jazz Lieutenant, the true story of a jazz pioneer and World War I hero. Herd guest-lectured in several classes, including Theresa McFadden’s (art), Ray Orkwis’ (English) and Herb Smith’s (music).

In addition to his art and writing, Herd plays the cornet and trumpet. You can view his artwork at the library through December.

Submitted by Tricia Holser, Public Informatoin


R2C2H2 Blows His-Story

Q and A With R2C2H2 Tha Artivist

The 25-year-old Memphis native has loved art since he was 2 and studied it while at Washington University in St. Louis. He chose the artist name R2C2H2 because he wanted to “build a brand that will stand the test of time and is also catchy.”

He’s currently working on a comic strip dedicated to his grandfather and those who served in World War II.

1. Describe the kind of artwork you do.

I’m an “artivist,” an activist and an artist put together. ... (Some artists) actually try to do work for the greater good. I try to document things that are very close to me that I find inspirational, in particular black history and jazz and hip-hop.

I just recently did a book called “James Reese Europe Jazz Lieutenant.” I love to tell stories, and it’s a true story about a jazz musician and World War I hero who was actually stationed in Spartanburg for a short time. I guess I use my art as an appetizer for knowledge.

2. Is there another career you wanted (or your family wanted you) to pursue?

When I was a young kid, I used to be into the military and whatnot. I always found myself during the off hours (at college) with different professors talking about philosophy and history.

3. What will you be exhibiting at the library?

Different artwork of jazz musicians, like some pieces involving Bert Williams ... as well as things relating to jazz history.

— Williesha C. Lakin

IF YOU GO

‘R2C2H2: Evolution of a Movement’

WHEN: Through Nov. 20, 2005; hours are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2-6 p.m. Sunday. “Meet the artist” reception is at 3 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Main Richland County Public Library, 1431 Assembly St.

COST: Free

INFORMATION: (803) 929-3457