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Sun Ra & Henry Dumas in Conversation, Slug's Saloon, NYC, 1966

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

Sun Ra is mostly regarded by music freaks and music historians as one of the most interesting acts in black music. His music, plainly described as free jazz or space jazz, was era defining and ground breaking for so many different reasons but probably most notable for its heavy futuristic pushes and its self-described deep Afro origins. One of my favorite jazz musicians, but also one of my favorite philo-entertainers. Sun Ra is known for his music theories and mystical, some say comic, claims in origin. Born Herman Poole Blount, Sun Ra claimed to be from other worlds and often carried messages for black people living in America and black leaders to the likes of Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and so on and so forth. Some give Ra credit for the creation of the (now popular) Afro-futurism genres in music and the visual arts. My two favorite pieces of work from Sun Ra are his 1979 masterpiece Sleeping Beauty with his Intergalactic Myth Science Solar Arkestra and a film that he co-wrote in 1974 entitled, Space is the Place, a space-aged blaxploitation that is super trippy and low budget. The film has an amazing message and some powerful images, though. If you are unfamiliar, please get hip, NOW.

Henry Dumas is a posthumously infamous writer, poet, and story teller who acclaimed novelist, Toni Morrison dubbed a literary genius. He wrote lots of mystical and Afrocentric themed stories and poems with beautiful esoteric undertones that keep readers attention as well as make them double back through his words. NPR did a half-cooked expose on the writer in 2015 due to the fact that Dumas was, himself, murdered at the hands of police in 1968. My favorite of his works include a book of poetry entitled, the Knees of a Natural Man (posthumously released in 1989) and a book of AMAZING shorts titled, Ark of Bones and Other Stories (1974).

I heard of Henry Dumas through the music of Sun Ra but I never knew they had a recorded conversation on CD! Its a bit blocky and unclear in places but it still should be rendered necessary listening for those who are committed to the cause. One of my biggest issues with my generation and the generation after is that we lack context sometimes. We sometimes miss our forefathers who answered a lot of painful questions that could aid us in getting to where we want to go. I don’t know if its a fear that drives this neglect or a simple ignorance, but I will never stop listening to the words of my forefathers. They weren’t wrong when discussing the race question and the American plight of the black race. Dumas, as stated earlier, was a victim of the very thing that we find ourselves “rebelling” against today. We can’t be that naïve to think that this is a simple coincidence. We know the stories, the history, the cause—or we don’t. Either way we can no longer use it as an excuse.

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