Heritage Music Day: Evolution of Gospel

This is an oldie but goodie; this song “Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness is from the “Evolution of Gospel” album, and it holds amazing memories for me. I was a camp counselor at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, the oldest (and most radical) Episcopal church in Harlem, New York City, and the self chosen spiritual home off my youth. It was there, on 126th Street and Old Broadway / St, Mary’s place that I took my first communion, I first interacted with live chickens and turkeys, served on the altar, and sang in the junior choir. I learned that it is good to be a P.I.T.A. (pain in the ass) to oppressive authority (thanks to then head priest Rev. Robert Castle, (Jonathan Demme’s cousin), and I learned to open my heart, mind and social space to people who live without homes, and with HIV/AIDS. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church taught me deep compassion for people, and each week I witnessed unconditional acceptance as people of many persuasions served on the altar, sometimes to the displeasure of the Cardinal. St. Mary’s Episcopal ushered me into a noble adulthood that I cherish to this day.

In 1993, I served as a summer camp counselor, and we created a closing ceremony for our campers that required all camp staff and students to take part. We all marched and danced to this song together, and it caused us to share and develop a deep appreciation for that moment in time with every replay of the song during our many weeks of rehearsal. The adult camp counselor with the greatest seniority, Tim Collins passed not too long after our summer camp, but I remember his humor, his candor, his loving family and well….his candor 🙂 He was the glitter on many of my summer moments. Although he left us, he also left an indelible mark that I remember every time I play this song.

I share this song with you almost 20 years later because it still moves me. I still sensorially reconnect with St. Mary’s altar, where I served as altar girl, choir member and camp counselor. Everyone has challenging and heavy days that seem endless and consuming, but the Sounds of Blackness tell us “You can win! As long as you keep your head to the sky!” I remember Tim chose this song. Although it seems difficult today, remember that tomorrow is a new day, and it holds infinite possibilities for happiness. “Keep, keep on…”

Sounds of Blackness was ahead of their time, with the video, the mixture of choreography traditions and their sound. They paved the way for many other interpretations of gospel music. I am lucky to have had them as a soundtrack to my early youth, I thank Tim for the timeless advice he offered us all through this song, and I am so grateful to St. Mary’s Church for being such a safe space in my early years. Even now when I read the blog or occasionally call the new head Priest Father Kooperkamp,all I feel, hear and think of is “home”. St. Marys was an incredible place to grow up back in the day! This song holds all this profundity for me, accessible via a simple mouse-click in iTunes. I hope you enjoy it, even half as much as I do.



Future Fashion: 3D Fabric from Your Printer and Multi-style Clothes

I perused Pinterest looking for inspirations, new DIY crafting projects, and future design. My click-fest eventually led me to Ecouterre and this 3-D printed coin necklace. You can order one pre-assembled or buy the DIY pattern from Shapeways, the 3D print items web store.

Michiel Cornelissen's 3D printed copper coin necklace

Is this the future of fabric? What then of the future of fashion? Slow Fashion? DIY?   Convertible Clothes? Cottage Industry Handmade? Upcycled?

Zoe Grace Fletcher  imagines core items decorate-able with interchangeable knit accent pieces. One blouse 12 ways, each niftier than the rest.

Then there is the portable closet by Renée Lacroix and Zahra Ash-Harper. It features 10-durable, stylish, eco-friendly pieces that do quintuple duty (wear each piece 5-different ways!). The entire collection fits into a carry-on for GreenPeeps on the Go, so that the fashion forward, eco-conscious, cosmopolitan sophisticate can travel with hundreds of outfit options in one carry-on bag.

I am excited to see what future fashion emerges victorious. The current ideas are numerous, innovative, interesting and very different from our disposable fashion culture. Who would have imagined that environmental consciousness in fashion would produce new aesthetics, new fabrics, new colors, new levels of durability, portability and add an ethical conversation factor…(wink, wink! that’s the point!)

Fashion and technology are courting, and may one day soon unite to form widely available and affordable Future Fashion: thrifty, stylish, accessible and low-impact.


I heart this ad!

Get a wide track, Get a Pontiac, and Breakaway, its, the Breakaway car this year…

the year  being 1969  of course. This commercial is perfect, the images they show are the same that car advertisers still tell us that cars are good for, when, in reality all we do is move them to the alternate side of the street, and “rubberneck” at collisions on the highways.

At least the jingle is captivating, which is the true reason I adore this commercial for the Firebird GTO… breakaway!

Sparkling Esperanza Spalding

I had this draft sitting for a couple of weeks waiting for the words, imaging that I would have to do a hard sell on her beautiful sound. Alas, it seems the Grammy’s show it is not a hard sell at all and that her work speaks or sings for itself. My absolute favorite is the first song “Little Fly” her adaptation of William Blake’s poem #97 the Fly.

She inspires me, the near perfect mingling of techniques, styles, her flair, ability, and confidence, her genuine approach to interviewing and the sweet soul that must underlie it all to make music so refreshing, so new and wholly her own. To me, her sound represents a body of work, what a dissertation should portend or least hint at. I am crafting the equivalent for my research – a tone of writing, a technique of analysis, a brand based in a unique approach to research on everyday objects. I can only trust that what I produce also will be palatable and my market, identifiable. Esperanza is a wonderful role model though our disciplines are different. I wish her continued success, and I hope to see her live, soon!

So, it is without further ado…I present, Esperanza Spalding

(Poem #97The Fly

Little Fly
Thy summers play,
My thoughtless hand
Has brush'd away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink and sing
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath;
And the want
of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

— William Blake

Last Leaf’s Flip Book Animation on Toast!

Hey there my fellow Thinkers!


Take a gander at this video by OK Go for their song Last Leaf. As a disciple and fan of novel forms of visuality (practice and media) in our visually cluttered world, this video is tops with me. the golden char on the pieces of toast serve as sepia toned background for the semi-related images in the foreground. The images don’t directly match the lyrics, however the emotions invoked by those images match the tone – harmonically and lyrically of the song. I see a real mastery of the media used by all those involved; mastery, a la martial arts, the visual artists involved (for example Geoff McFetridge), clearly have expert knowledge of their tools.  The band or at least their publicity team seems very aware of what “indie” is on the internet, in fact they say so on the BIO page of their website. Such a multilevel awareness shows itself as they cater to the medium of the internet with a quirky video, while simultaneously creating the indie quirky culture they seem to represent.  This very point is why I linked this entry to the Frontline Episode of the Persuaders wherein advertisers co-opt culture, repackage it, take it mainstream, and in so many careless hands, eventually destroys the essence which made it special in the first place.

I am a thinking, feeling person aimed toward growth in comprehension and stillness. I have no quarrel with the band OK Go, nor the skilled visual and production artists or marketing mavens that crafted and packaged this video. i took a peek at their tour schedule for the past year, fabulous stops I might add, and noted that the Billy-burg hipsters bought out ALL of the tickets when band OK Go performed here in Brooklyn. The hipsters have their own unique culture over there, and I can’t help but wonder whether this band (that they love so much) actually represents that hipster je ne sais quoi, or if their sponsored partnership with Samsung is the beginning of the very repackaging, mainstreaming and dilution of hipster culture. Truthfully, every blog, tweet and the inevitable proliferation of this neat music video futher seals this fate..

Woo Woo…Meta…


Shawndel Frasera Haiku:

Visual Research
BloggingTweeting Leader
and Academic

I’m Stepping Back a la Sonia Sanchez, Claim another day

Step Back by Sonia Sanchez on Talib Kweli’s album – Blacksmith The Movement

Track # 15 (0:39 seconds) Step Back, by renowned Poet Sonia Sanchez and lyricist Talib Kweli.


I say, all you young girls waiting to live

I say,  all you young girls taking your pill,

I say all you sistahs tired of standing still,

I say all you sistahs thinking you won’t, but you will…

Don’t let them kill you with their stare,

Don’t let them closet you with no air,

Don’t let them feed you sex piecemeal,

Don’t let them offer you any ordeal

I say step back sistahs, we rising from the dead,

I say step back  ***, we dancing on our heads,

I say step back man, no more hanging by a thread…

I say step back girl,

Can’t let it all go unsaid.

lyrics by Sonia Sanchez

Second Act: Digital Storytelling

Last week, I presented at the General Meeting in the Graduate Center’s New Media Lab where I work on the visual portion of my PhD research. I excerpted and modified this blog entry from my post on the New Media Lab blog. In the meeting, I shared my experiences using Prezi and critiqued its limitations after praising it’s strengths. During the Q&A /conversation session, I mentioned a well-known lecture named “Killing Us Softly” by Jean Kilbourne, in which she analyzes gender stereotypes in advertising. I led the conversation in the Lab meeting  about the merits of digital and visual storytelling as a means of broadening the audience for our research, so I decided to share Jean Kilbourne’s talk here.

I have no way of knowing at this moment whether she used Powerpoint, Keynote or a film editing program. What matters for me is the way that she wove the technology into the fabric of her talk. As an underlying structure, it indicates that she memorized her talk and only looks to her paper for notes and pacing. She begins her discussion by sharing anecdotal information which the etiology of the project idea and situated herself in relation to the topic of interest.

By being less focused on slide progression, Ms. Kilbourne can be herself. She can interact with and ingratiate the audience in a way that encourages audience participation and investment in the topic. The few statistics she employed were easy to understand bar graphs and bulleted lists. I am firm believer that social, physical and life scientists, philosophers, and even theoretical mathematicians can increase baseline interest in their work by presenting it in ways that are organically enjoyable to hear, see and learn from.

Shawndel Fraser

What am I doing?
What’s on my mind? Nit-Twits

Academic 411
What do I see?
What do I support?