Sunday, June 21, 2009

Smoke Signals

Sunday March 29th was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and Lisa and I took a drive north out of the city. On our way back to Manhattan we passed by my favorite spot on the FDR underneath the Triborough Bridge. Black Cherokee was out in full force and his message to me was still up.

As we passed Lisa screamed out the window, "We love you Black Cherokee!" He waived back.
Lisa and I think in very different ways about art and culture. Sometimes I don't think she understands my fascination with Otis's work. In that moment she did. "I am so proud of you baby!" Lisa teared up.

"Its beautiful right?"

"Yes" she answered.

After dropping off Lisa at home i made my way back uptown to see if Otis was still out. I parked my car and made my way over to his performance space. Black Cherokee was standing still with a broom in his right hand hand, a fold of cash in his left hand and an open book on his head. His mouth was taped shut with red duct tape. His nipples were covered and his pelvis was marked with a big X, using the same red tape. Behind him was a beautiful bouquet of daffodils arranged in the shell of a watermellon. As I approached I took a few pictures.

"Hey Otis. Thats me!" I said pointing to the sign.
"Are you Mr. Tony?" he said smiling. We shook hands.
"I like the way you write about me. Wanted to get in touch with you so I put up the sign."
"What you are doing here is really important." I told him. "We need this."
"You get it man! I don't know what you know and you don't know what I know but together we have a whole lot of know."

I recognized this as one of his poems he posted online. As the conversation continued I realized much of what Otis was saying was from his poetry. Black Cherokee is living art and this fact invades his speech. We talked to find what purpose we had together. We both agreed that we had to do something together. I want to help get Otis's work out into the world.

Black Cherokee needs a website. I will need help doing this.

Before I left Otis gave me his CD. Its called America and it is pretty amazing. Hear some samples here on Listening to this music will make you happy and feel good. It will also give you insight into the performance work such as the use of books and the broom. He states his mission in The Children. He calls for a multimedia campaign to help empower and protect our youth, by any means necessary. "We must use video, rap music, pop sounds, every and anything all around." My other two favorite songs are My Books I Read and I Like Where I Stay. Both have good music tracks and beautiful lyrics. I Like Where I Stay is definitely my favorite and give a window into Black Cherokee's world.

Clearly Otis needs a few more beats to lay his tracks on and perhaps a better studio to record in, but the artistry and message are all there. I would like to ask anyone who is interested in promoting Black Cherokee through helping put together a website or with his music, doing video documentation, or through any other means, to contact me at tony [at]

This is important work and is an absolute joy participating in. So spread the word and help manifest this living art as a gift to the world.

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