Shabazz Palaces, still from “Are You... Can You... Were You? (Felt).” 2012. HD video. 5 min 54 sec.
Paid sponsored content
Bull Horn is an avenue to give wings to the stories that matter most. This series, from Red Bull in partnership with the Chicago Reader, will invite guest writers, artists, activists, and community members to share their ideas and amplify timely, crucial topics they feel are important now.

It’s a feeling.
I woke up to it, heavy,
alight with trueness
Always a way of losin’,
compelled to knew it
My body traveled,
my mind waits behind the music
My crime bemuses,
“relax inside my shiny blueness.”
Time: I understand it,
but I never choose it
I can’t explain it with verbs,
I have to do it.

My year, live from this pandemic, in words, would have to be these lyrics from Shabazz Palace’s 2011 song (which sounds more timely and pertinent than ever) “Are You…Can You…Were You? (Felt)” from their futuristic and speculative but deeply introspective album Black Up.

It’s the “relax inside my blueness” for me.

It’s also the “I can’t explain it with verbs, I have to do it” for me, too.

I’ve been looking towards surrealism, speculative ways of thinking, and jazz to feel less anxious, to feel more human. We’re living in a moment where corporations, institutions, brands, and other entities all want in on “Blackness,” as a means of “showing solidarity” and flaunting how “inclusive” they’re becoming. Outside of the vortex of Black political grievances, this past summer’s uprisings, and COVID-19—What does it mean for the Black artist to be encouraged to pull inward, process, and just—feel? Black artists have always been encouraged and pressured to politicize their creative outputs, and to respond to the various forms of societal and racial trauma we’re often subjected to. Can we imagine a time, space, and place for supporting Black artists and Black creativity right now through what we’re feeling, and not what it is we’re making/producing? Or how it contributes to conversations on race? Even in a pandemic, and amongst the anti-Black political tensions—Black artists are deserving of care, relief, dreaming, timelessness, absurdity, and pure forms of being not always encapsulated by trauma and those who can benefit from it.

What does it mean to nurture the Black artist from this space? To support us in the doing and the process, and not the results of our making? To be supported in our thinking—to be supported simply in how we’re feeling—and dreaming.

zakkiyyah is a multidisciplinary artist, arts educator, and independent curator working in Chicago. She can be found here: and @zakkiyyah.najeebah on Instagram.

Paid sponsored content