Friday, July 30, 2021

Prince Made ‘Welcome 2 America’ in 2010. It Speaks to 2021.

Not that Prince wasn't highly gifted or perceptive, but that much of the chaos and craziness we're seeing today was already evident in 2010. What stands out for me that year is the particularly ominous and foreboding Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that leaked an astonishing 70,000 barrels of oil a day for a total of 87 days. 

It felt apocalyptic and still does as I reflect on it even today with great sadness for the all-but-forgotten or ignored horrific devastation it left in its wake—about which Mother Nature cannot forget.

How do you remember this moment?

I distinctly remember feeling anguished about it and suspect that those 87 days impacted all of our psyches and souls as a planet—and perhaps most especially for small children who feel and think deeply but who lack a language for their feelings, as well as our insightful and sensitive artists and cultural critics like Prince.

2021 is a testament not only to our not having learned that we, as humans, are a part of nature, but also that when we are not in sync, this gets manifest in nature—and increasingly with a ferociousness as we are seeing today.

The Delta Variant is exploding through the populace right now. And the Western U.S. is ablaze with more than 50 large fires burning at this very moment on this day of July 30, 2021.

About an hour ago, I shared with a dear friend, Lydia Perez, my own sense of the combined factors of white supremacist politics, the Delta variant, and the raging fires. Like a match on dry grass, we spontaneously combusted with a shared analysis and sharp critique, revealing the gravity of these otherwise concealed thoughts and feelings. She pointed out the four elements and how they are all currently activated. Wind (airborne virus), water (floods), fire, and Earth with earthquakes, a daily affair. 

I couldn't agree with her more. Our Indigenous knowledge and wisdom speak to this. Consider the following:

"During the past 24 hours, there were 1 quake of magnitude 6.2, 5 quakes between 5.0 and 6.0, 40 quakes between 4.0 and 5.0, 120 quakes between 3.0 and 4.0, and 260 quakes between 2.0 and 3.0. There were also 508 quakes below magnitude of 2.0 which people don't normally feel."

So, just in the last 24 hours, 426 earthquake were felt by people worldwide and an additional 508 occurred but were probably not felt. And precious little of this is newsworthy any longer. It's only something "to track." The historic Western fires in the meantime compete with maddening Washington and Texas politics and vaccine news.

It felt good to share in another's concerns and anxieties today. We both agreed that all of these phenomena we are witnessing are connected and that our job today is literally to survive and to actively protect and love the children, all our children, the next generation.

Prince got it right.

-Angela Valenzuela

Prince Made ‘Welcome 2 America’ in 2010. It Speaks to 2021. A full album has emerged from Prince’s vault that balances hard insights with visceral joys. 

, July 29, 3032 | New York Times

Credit...Mike Ruiz, via The Prince Estate

It’s almost as if Prince knew what lay ahead.

In 2010, Prince recorded but then shelved a finished album, “Welcome 2 America,” which was full of bleak reflections on the state of the nation. It arrives Friday as the Prince estate continues to open up Prince’s vault of unreleased music since his death in 2016. Unlike much of what has emerged so far, it’s a complete, stand-alone album — a disillusioned statement that sounds all too fitting in 2021.

“Welcome 2 America” was made two years into the Obama administration, and Prince didn’t see much progress. In the title track, women sing, “Hope and change”; then Prince dryly observes, “Everything takes forever/The truth is a new minority.”

The songs take on racism, exploitation, disinformation, celebrity, faith and capitalism: “21st century, it’s still about greed and fame,” Prince sings in “Running Game (Son of a Slave Master).” Eleven years after the album was recorded — as the 2020s have brought bitter divisiveness, blatant racism, battles over history and a digital hellscape of hyped consumption and algorithmically boosted lies — Prince doesn’t sound pessimistic, just matter-of-fact.

“Welcome 2 America” wasn’t made casually. It’s one of Prince’s more collaborative albums, constructed in discrete stages with different cohorts of musicians. Prince started out recording instrumental tracks — without vocals or lyrics — live in the studio with Tal Wilkenfeld on bass and Chris Coleman on drums. Then he worked with the singers Shelby J. (for Johnson), Liv Warfield and Elisa Fiorillo, sharing leads and harmonies with them. Morris Hayes, billed as Mr. Hayes, added keyboards and intricately jazzy simulated string and horn arrangements, earning credit as co-producer for six of the album’s 12 songs. Prince also did some final tweaking, including a rewrite of the title track.

But Prince had already released one album in 2010 — “20Ten” — and his attention turned to forming a new live band (including Mr. Hayes and the three backup singers) that would tour the world for the next two years. The American portion was called the “Welcome 2 America” tour, but the album stayed unreleased. (The deluxe version of “Welcome 2 America” includes a Blu-ray of a jubilant 2011 arena show in Inglewood, Calif.)

Unlike much of what has been released since Prince’s death, “Welcome 2 America” is a complete, stand-alone album, full of bleak reflections on the state of the nation.Credit...Kevin Mazur, via The Prince Estate

“Welcome 2 America” makes its way from the bitter derision of its title track toward a guarded optimism, with detours — it’s a Prince album after all — into physical pleasures. The title song telegraphs its mood with its first notes: a snake hiss of cymbals and a bass line that inches upward, skulks back down and then plunges further, against a backdrop of ambiguous chords and synthesizer swoops. The track edges toward funk, and the women sing, but Prince doesn’t; he simply talks, deadpan, about information overload, high-tech distractions, privilege, fame and culture, asking, “Think today’s music will last?” Singing in harmony, the women amend an American motto to “Land of the free, home of the slave.”

In the cryptic “1010 (Rin Tin Tin),” Prince asks, “What could be stranger than the times we’re in?” over skeletal, choppy piano chords, and he goes on to decry “too much information” and a “wilderness of lies.” With “Running Game (Son of a Slave Master),” Prince confronts a microcosm of rich vs. poor: the way the music business takes advantage of newcomers.

Yet as usual in Prince’s catalog, “Welcome 2 America” balances hard insights with visceral joys. He sings about pointless conflicts over religion in “Same Page, Different Book” — “So much more in common if you’d only look,” he insists — but his lyrics about rocks, missiles and car bombs arrive backed by crisp syncopations. In “1000 Light Years From Here,” he puts breezy Latin funk behind reminders of Black perseverance, touching on the subprime mortgage crisis and the 2008 financial-sector meltdown: “We can live underwater/It ain’t hard when you’ve never been a part/Of the country on dry land.” Prince put new lyrics to “1000 Light Years” as an upbeat coda to the even more pointed “Black Muse” — a song about slavery, injustice and America’s debt to Black culture — on the last album he released during his lifetime, “HitnRun Phase Two.”

Prince pauses the sociopolitical commentary for “Check the Record,” a rock-funk stomp about infidelity, and for “When She Comes,” a sensual falsetto ballad marveling in a woman’s ecstasy. (Prince also reworked “When She Comes” for “HitnRun Phase Two,” emphasizing male technique instead.)

As the album ends, Prince calls for positive thinking. “Yes” reaches back to the supercharged gospel-rock of Sly and the Family Stone. After that tambourine-shaking peak, “One Day We Will All B Free” eases into reassuring, midtempo soul. But the “Yes” that Prince calls for is an affirmation that “We can turn the page/As long as they ain’t movin’ us to a bigger cage,” and “One Day We Will All B Free” is also a warning about unquestioning belief in what churches and schools teach. Prince saw a long struggle ahead.

“Welcome 2 America”
(NPG/Sony Legacy)

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Texas is Ground Zero for voting rights: Let's March This Saturday at the Texas State Capitol


Join me on Saturday at the Texas State Capitol to march for voting rights. Texas is now Ground Zero for voting rights nationally. We'll all get a chance to listen to music legend Willie Nelson who is opposing Republican efforts to limit voting rights. It's going to be fun. Bring water and wear a cap to protect yourselves from the sun.

I'll plan to head over around 9AM. See y'all soon.

-Angela Valenzuela



Willie Nelson concert to cap voting rights march, rally at Capitol in downtown Austin

Chuck Lindell  July 29, 2021 | Austin American-Statesman

Austin American-Statesman

Music legend Willie Nelson will perform Saturday morning at a voting rights rally at the Capitol, lending his name once again to the side opposing Republican efforts to pass legislation affecting the way Texas conducts voting and elections.

Nelson's concert will help cap a four-day voting rights march that began Wednesday morning with a Georgetown-to-Round Rock leg, then picked up again Thursday morning with about a 10-mile walk into North Austin that was joined by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the political activist and former Democratic presidential candidate.

Patterned after the Selma-to-Birmingham trek in Alabama that helped define the civil rights movement in 1965, the march will end at the Capitol for a Saturday rally scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

More:March from Georgetown to Texas Capitol inspired by events in Selma

Nelson announced Thursday that he will add his guitar and voice to the rally because he believed Republican-backed election legislation was punitive and unnecessary.

"It is important that we ensure the right for every American to vote and vote safely," he said in a statement. "Laws making it more difficult for people to vote are un-American and are intended to punish poor people, people of color, the elderly and disabled — why?"

Most business at the Capitol has been halted since July 12, when more than 50 Democrats traveled to Washington to block passage of election legislation by denying the Texas House the 100 members needed to make quorum during a special session that ends Aug. 7.

A day after the Democrats decamped, Nelson urged donors to support them by contributing to a fund set up by Democrat Beto O'Rourke's group, Powered by People.

"Let’s jump in there and fight back now, come on," Nelson said in a short online video, joined by his wife, Annie Nelson.

The Nelsons promised to match $5,000 in donations, and the effort raised more than $600,000 to help pay the Democrats' costs in Washington, organizers said.

More:From John Lennon to Willie Nelson, repairing and building guitars for all the greats

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

‘Erased From The History Books’: Why Asian American History Is Missing In Texas Schools, by Elizabeth Myong

Yes, Asian Americans are omitted from U.S. History books, not unlike most other groups, including women. Read this post, to learn of the recent struggle for inclusion of Asian American Studies, as well as Mexican American, African American, and Native American Studies before the Texas State Board of Education. 

"Erasure" is not quite the word for this as it suggests something was present and then removed. Still, getting erased in historical memory through acts of omission is terrible. So are distortions and errors of interpretation when they occur. This arguably disrespectful posture toward Asian Americans will get further aggravated by House Bill 3979 that goes into effect this fall.  Among other things, it prohibits the teaching of current, controversial events like say, the Atlanta shootings that targeted Asian women last spring.

A first-year teacher cited herein, adds another layer of difficulty, namely, the role of standardized, high-stakes testing as itself an agent of curricular whitewashing and teacher control. To many of us in the fair and valid assessment movement, this has been obvious for such a very long time. Complicating all of this further are State Board of Education politics.

“If the state of Texas doesn't say, this is important material for you to learn, it's hard for us to fit it into the curriculum,” Gross said.

The seeming impediment of the wide diversity of the Asian American student population suggested within should not be viewed as a problem, in my view, especially when the political representation of Asian American policymakers, lawmakers, and teachers structure out their voices to begin with. 

Short of what our imminent Asian American Studies elective course will offer—once TEKS standards for it are established—my main take away from this important statement on Asian American history is that Texas state curricula reflects the interests of those in power. And those in power are either ignorant or willfully blind to Asian Americans' historical experiences primarily because it might empower this growing demographic. So unfortunate.

This is such a small, shameful, defensive posture that forfeits important historical knowledge that could deeply enrich our intellects and social relations in an increasingly interconnected world.

-Angela Valenzuela

‘Erased From The History Books’: Why Asian American History Is Missing In Texas Schools