In the premier episode of the Marc Steiner Show, as fears mount over political violence in the wake of the election, Dr. Nikki Taylor and Dr. Gerald Horne talk about the history of, and resistance to, fascist violence against Indigenous and Black communities in the US.
Virtuoso drummer Cindy Blackman Santana released a new genre-bending album in September, produced by Narada Michael Walden and featuring collaborations with husband Carlos Santana, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, and guitarist Vernon Reid. Cindy talks to Marc about our trying times and her music’s place in them.
The following is a rush transcription of this interview and may contain errors. It will be updated.
Marc Steiner: Welcome to the Marc Steiner Show right here on the Real News Network. It’s a pleasure to have you all with us. And welcome to the official launch of our show. A double pleasure. Every week, producer Ericka Blount and I will be bringing you interviews and stories from the intersection of culture and politics, in depth conversations with leading activists and artists, about the events that affect our lives and present to you stories we think you won’t find anywhere else.
Marc Steiner: Today we begin with Doctors Gerald Horne and Nikki Taylor, to explore how American fascistic oppression, is really nothing new to black and indigenous communities in our country. And what it says as a warning to the rest of America. Then we have a conversation with Cindy Blackman Santana, an amazing drummer and musician who is also a deeply spiritual and political thinker. And she brings that to all of her music as you’ll see shortly. Now we open with our conversations with Doctors Gerald Horne and Nikki Taylor. Enjoy.
Marc Steiner: We are starting our in-depth look at what Fascism means in America today and what it meant before. It is a prevailing opinion that the United States started making really strong strides toward the conservative right under Richard Nixon. Well, that’s true, and that may be the beginning of the move towards Fascism, but Malcolm X said, “The United States has always been a prison for black people.” If the enslavement of Africans, and the genocide against indigenous people are the foundation of capitalism and imperialism, you have to understand that people of color have been experiencing Fascism in the United States for centuries. From the genocide to enslavement, post-reconstruction terror that gave birth the Klan, to policing and surveillance in black and brown worlds, to prison industrial complex and the world of mass incarceration, it’s latest form.
Marc Steiner: The difference is that it hasn’t been called Fascism, when it happens to people of color. As the country moves further towards Fascism as people think, as evidenced by the National Guard and Homeland Security storming protesters and Trump refusing to denounce white supremacist groups, could what has happened to people of color for decades, for centuries, be a harbinger of what could happen to all of our futures in the United States? And are we in a battle for our future? I think we are. I will just leave you with this quote here I found the other day as I was reading election news. He spoke in Paris at the second national writers conference in 1937. His quote was, “Give Franco a hood, and he would be a member of the Ku Klux Klan, a Kleagle. Fascism is what the Ku Klux Klan will be when it combines with a liberty league, and starts using machine guns and airplanes instead of a few yards of rope. In America, Negroes don’t have to be told what Fascism is. In action, we know.”
Marc Steiner: Let me welcome our guests. Once again, Dr. Gerald Horne, who needs no introduction here at the Real News. He’s joined us so many times in the past with his analysis, his wisdom, his thoughts. He holds the John J. and Rebecca Moore’s Chair in History and African-American studies at the University of Houston. His latest book is The Dawning of the Apocalypse: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, Settler Colonialism, and Capitalism in a Long Sixteenth Century. And Dr. Nikki Taylor, professor and chair of the history department at Howard University. Her latest book is, Driven Towards Madness: The Fugitive Slave Margaret Garner and the Tragedy on the Ohio.
Marc Steiner: Welcome to both of you. Good to have you with us.
Dr. Gerald Horne: Thank you for inviting me.
Dr. Nikki Taylor: Thank you.
Marc Steiner: Nikki Taylor, welcome to the Real News for the first time. It’s great to have you here with us.
Dr. Nikki Taylor: It’s great to be here.
Marc Steiner: Let me begin with you Gerald Horne. The book you wrote, The Counter Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and The Origins of the United States, you posit in there that the Revolutionary War was really a movement that was fought to preserve the right to enslave others. Let’s talk about that and all the contradictions from the beginning, and the resistance movement of black people and others and the message we can learn from that time, but that’s a part of our history, the way of looking at our past that is not universally known nor popular.
Dr. Gerald Horne: Well, I think you need to realize that when this so-called republic was given birth in 1776, in many ways it represented the organizing of an apartheid state. That is to say that it’s not coincidental or accidental, that the rights accorded to the subsequent US Constitution were not accorded to the entire population. To cite one example amongst many, the voted Second Amendment of the United States, which has been interpreted to suggest that folks have the right to bear arms, certainly that right did not belong to the enslaved African population. If it had, the institution of slavery would have been abolished well before 1865 and the strategic ambition of the secular class was to keep arms out of the hands of native Americans.
Dr. Gerald Horne: And so I think that if you fast forward today, what’s happening is that as a result of change, international conditions, and unremitting struggle by those who were initially excluded from the alleged bounty of the foundation of the republic, these excluded forces have now been able to garner a modicum of rights. And what’s happening is that the counter-revolutionary impulse, which helped to give birth to the United States in the first instance is now asserting itself in a muscular fashion. In some ways, what it reminds me of is the system of lynching, which followed the abolition of slavery post 1865.
Dr. Gerald Horne: That is to say that those who were non-black who expressed any sympathy towards the victim of lynching often times were persecuted or lynched themselves. It seems inevitable that once you have a retreat of Jim Crow and a passel of rights being accorded, for example, to the black population, that it would eventually devolve into a system, whereby the counter-revolutionary impulse would then seek to impose that persecution, that form of lynching upon non-black folk, and in some ways that’s a pithy summary of what Fascism may portend, that is to say that those who thought they had been excluded from the sharp talons and sharp claws of Fascism, will actually be included and be subjected to that kind of persecution. And unless we’re careful, that is what is in store.
Marc Steiner: That’s interesting. I’m going to come back to that last thought of yours, and actually, Nikki it’s good to have you with us here in the Real News as I said, and your first book, it was Frontiers of Freedom. And it’s interesting that you talk about the black community in Cincinnati, where there was a real fight back. People battled from freedom, men included black nationalists, mob defense. Talk about this and other similar African American communities that serve in some ways as a template for resistance and what that says to us today.
Dr. Nikki Taylor: Definitely. I think all of my books grapple with the question of black freedom, black citizenship, and resistance. That book was the beginning of my intellectual journey. I think that community, what a lot of people don’t realize is that the racial violence, among free black people in Northern cities, such as New York and Philadelphia and Cincinnati was as American as apple pie. When black communities would form in these cities, free black communities, many of them had been legitimately free since the American revolution, oftentimes whites moved on and egged on by the media, would decided that they wanted to cleanse the community. And there’s one such a case in 1829 in Cincinnati, which is what historians would think is the first incidence of ethnic cleansing against the black population in America. And whites in the city of Cincinnati determined that they wanted to rid themselves of all of the black community, but rather than be helpless and victimized, the black community quickly converted their efforts, and turned it into a black nationalist or black immigrations effort.
Dr. Nikki Taylor: And so they try to figure out where they would go first. They tried Haiti and then they were considering a rural community in Ohio. And then they settled on upper Canada because they believed that there, they could have some rights and some level of citizenship. And so they decided to move there. And so we have the first black colony in Canada planted in 1829, an outgrowth of that. In addition to that in 1841, I think is what you’re referring to, there was an all-out race war against the black community there. And rather again, sit and be victimized, the black community decided to pick up guns, and decided to fight back against their fellow citizens in Ohio. And so they organized themselves and it actually was a race war, and it only was stopped, the black effort was only stopped by the intervention of the state apparatus.
Dr. Nikki Taylor: When the state brought out its militia in Canon, and decided to disarm the black community, there ended that effort of radical self-defense. And such a thing back then was unheard of for black men, to take up guns in a free city in the North, and shoot white people. It was unheard of. And so that’s really part of the Richard legacy and black nationalism, which many people believe started with either Marcus Garvey or even Malcolm X in the 20th century, there are elements of black nationalism dating back to, Dr. Horne’s, American revolution era. Black nationalism, back then was about finding an all-black colony or a space where we could live free of white domination. Those are just a few examples of how African Americans across time have tried to battle and fight against what Pierre Van den Berghe calls a Heron Book democracy, or a white solely democracy.
Marc Steiner: I call it where that leaves us now. One of the things that I … I’ve had a number of conversations about this with a lot of people recently about what we’re facing in this country right now, and that looking at black and indigenous history in this country, and reality right now in the 21st century, and I was reading this piece this morning and [inaudible 00:10:43] talked about Du Bois’s work. And he argued that the end reconstruction heaved Afro-American into Fascism. There’s no other term for it. The overthrow on democratic elected government and the rule of direct terror, on which we a atually shatter a finance capital carried out with murder, intimidation, robbery, or the first storm troopers against a hilarious prototyping, Ku Klux Klan directly financed by Northern Capital.
Marc Steiner: I just raised that because in some ways it’s analogous to a moment we’re facing now. And for the first time you see literally millions and millions of non-African American people in the streets saying no, and begin to open their minds around racism and the depth of racism in America. Where do you think this takes us at this moment? It’s not the black world’s job to teach the rest of America about Fascism, but the reality is we are facing it. What do you think this particular moment says about our past, and where it’s taking us to this moment? Gerald, do you want to begin and then Nikki Taylor will jump in?
Dr. Gerald Horne: Well, it’s too soon to say where things are headed, but certainly there are some pessimistic signs. Indeed, It is possible to say already, that it’s unsustainable as the post Civil War period showed, to have a kind of Fascism visited upon indigenous peoples and black peoples, and a kind of democracy for the rest. Inevitably, that’s an unsustainable system. Unfortunately, a changing international situation, referencing the rise of a socialist count, national liberation movements in Africa and the Caribbean, forced the United States to rethink and reconsider it’s atrocious and hateful and spiteful Jim Crow system. And therefore you have the agonizing retreat from the more egregious elements of Jim Crow, beginning of the 1950s and accelerating in the 1960s. But now with the changed international situation, with the implosion of the socialists count post 1989, and with what was thought to be the rise of the unchallenged super power in Washington, you have a lessening of pressure on you as imperialism, and inevitably it’s led to these fascist type trends.
Dr. Gerald Horne: We’ll know in a few days where this will take us, at least I think we’ll have a better idea, but already there are some very concerning signs. I’m thinking of the Oath Keepers, for example, one of these numerous paramilitary forces that has recruited heavily and US police departments in the US Military, not unlike its counterparts across the Atlantic in Germany, which led to the disbanding of a number of German security forces because of their penetration by Neo Nazi elements, not unlike the Oath Keepers. And likewise with you look at the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, and the Boogaloo bois and the Proud Boys, they recruit heavily amongst military veterans, those who were taught that in Afghanistan and Iraq, you try to resolve political questions through the barrel of a gun. And inevitably those chickens have come home to roost, and they have adopted this idea that the way you resolve political questions in United States is likewise, through the barrel of a gun.
Dr. Gerald Horne: You may have noticed what’s going on in the state of Virginia, which the right wing feels is slipping from its grass. And as a result, you have the rise of various militia movements, which are seeking the legal imprimatur, of counties in Virginia that are dominated by the right wing. I’m sure you’ve noticed what happened in the state of Michigan, where the so-called, the paramilitary forces hatched a plot to kidnap the Governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer and put her on trial, presumably execute after a sham trial. When the 45th U.S. president the Manhattan mousseline, it comes to Michigan, he [inaudible 00:14:52] who chant a very dangerous and curly slogans like against the Governor of Michigan.
Dr. Gerald Horne: It’s not beyond the pale of imagination to suspect, that if the election does not go the way that the open the oval office thinks it should go, that there could be a heightening of these kinds of tensions with the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal judiciary now under the thumb of the right wing, putting its legal stamp of approval on what could very well turn out to be an ultra righters coup that portends ill for many of us.
Marc Steiner: That scenario is frightening and the problem is that it’s ultra realistic. I was thinking what Gerald was saying and I could tell, other day we talked with Dennis Gerson who is a retired major, fought in Afghanistan, graduated from West Point, taught at West Point. And what he said is that, the military may be over 40% people of color at this point. But the combat units, the units doing the fighting, the units doing all the work on that ground, are overwhelmingly white and from Southern and Mountain States. He was a major in those units.
Marc Steiner: We are facing a future we can’t quite figure out what this interregnum is going to bring us and what could happen. Let me just think about what you were saying earlier and I was also thinking about it in terms of … in the 1960s there was this the original Rainbow Coalition that took place between the Appalachian whites, the Young Patriots, the Brown Berets and the Young Lords, Mexican and Puerto Ricans and the Black Panthers in Chicago which got Fred Hampton murders. And the idea of building inter-racial coalitions together, and the millions of people saying no, is always been fought with your people running away from it or having it disbanded and still being stacked into other things, or actually being oppressed. Let’s talk about the past and what the past tells us about what we need to do about the future, where this might be taking us.
Dr. Nikki Taylor: Well, as a historian of 19th century history, it’s very frightening to see the political culture of today. And when you think about the 19th century, these moments of black political power and even economic success are always followed by a very violent, instinct reaction to that. The failure of reconstruction happened on the heels of all of these black senators and congressmen and other people coming to power. I think in terms of the prospects for today, we have to be very knowledgeable about history to understand where this might go today. And so as Dr. Horne said, it’s very frightening to see that our president is invoking some of these paramilitary groups that are possibly going to be positioned at the polling places. And it’s very similar to what happened in the 19th century at the failure of reconstruction. But in terms of your other question about, the possibilities for inter-racial coalitions I guess, those possibilities were there in the 60s.
Dr. Nikki Taylor: And I think, what happened is the state was very threatened by that. And so you could look at the FBI files, the COINTEL profiles. It wasn’t just the “black extremists” that they were trying to repress and disband and exterminate in and frame and turn into political prisoners. It was also members of the Chicano movement and other indigenous groups and things like that. Those things, its state intervention to basically repress these movements, which is really concerning.
Dr. Nikki Taylor: I teach a course at Howard now called African Americans in State Sponsored Injustice. And one of the things we’re looking at currently is the parallels between what happened to the Black Panthers and all of those groups in the 60s and early 70s, and what’s now happening in terms of surveillance and the mysterious deaths of a lot of the Black Lives Matter activists. And so I’m showing them some of the records from the D.C. government where they’re surveilling the Bill Black Lives Matter activists in the city of D.C. and our nation’s capital. These things are bound to repeat themselves, especially for a demographic that doesn’t have a sound grasp of American history in the possibilities of just ignoring the past could bring for us today.
Marc Steiner: Some people talk these days and write about that. We are in a peer that could be a third reconstruction on a precipice. It could go either way. If the second reconstruction was the civil rights movement in the opening of the 50s and 60s, and then the repression that pushed backwards as reaching its high point at this moment. Could we be at this moment on that precipice of a third reconstruction or it’s opposite? Another wave of absolute right wing terror that dominates the country. When I say this, people look at me and go, “You’re making too much of this. This can’t be all this,” but I don’t think I’m making too much of this. I think we are at a point where it could go either way, either the third reconstruction or something much worse. How do you all see it? Go ahead Nikki. Why don’t you start and then and let Gerald finish up.
Dr. Nikki Taylor: I definitely think this moment is a watershed moment. In my lifetime, I haven’t seen any possibilities of anything like it. And so, yeah, I think it could go either way. I’m not a political determined. Not everything is determined by the political environment, but necessarily the social relations and the “racial relations” and inter-ethnic relations, are at an all time low in my lifetime. And so that’s what’s very frightening and scary and I don’t think it will be resolved on November 3rd. I think this is something like a very ugly can of worms that was open. And it’s going to be hard to reign in our worst impulses. When I say our, I mean, American’s worst impulses, which are division, xenophobia, sexism, all of those things are turning back the clock in a lot of different areas of our society.
Dr. Gerald Horne: Part of the problem, when you try to answer that question of which direction are we headed, is the fact that the various class forces are fundamentally split. What I mean is that if you look at the craft unions, for example, many of them actually are pro-Trump, the police unions. Many of them are actually pro-Trump, pro right wing. And particularly if you look at the officer core of the US Military, many of them are pro-Trump for example. If you look at the building trades, they’re oftentimes split. And if you look at the government workers, American Federation of State County, municipal employees, service employees, international union, they’re basically anti-Trump and anti right wing. But of course they are disproportionately comprised of black and brown workers.
Dr. Gerald Horne: If you look at the ruling class as well, they’re split as well. If you look at the ruling class headquarter in the state, from which I’m now speaking of Texas, if you look at the folks in the energy industrial complex, a Harrell Ham, for example, a big inner who was one of Mr.Trump’s major supporters. If you look at the executives at Exxon Mobile, for example, they’re all in with regard to a Republican Party victory, because as they see it with the push towards clean energy and renewables, wind and solar, they can continue extracting fossil fuels from the earth, and continue contributing to a crisis and the climate, for their narrow financial and economic interests.
Dr. Gerald Horne: But at the same time, you have anti-Trump forces in the US ruling class, the much demonized George Soros and some of his comrades, and finance capital who are not necessarily dependent of armed labor, for example, or if you look at the Hollywood elite, Jeffrey Katzenberg and former chief executive at Disney, who raises gobs of money for anti-Trump forces. The classes are basically split, which makes it very difficult to answer your question definitively as to where we go from here. And in fact, it helps to explain why you’re able to pose that question.
Dr. Gerald Horne: But certainly, if you look at the international situation, it’s become ever more gloomy for US imperialism, not only with regard to the rise of China, but the kind of competition that’s now coming from the European Union, or principally Germany, which [inaudible 00:24:01] sees as one of his major folds. That is helping to remove the possibility of US imperialism continuing to grow what they consider to be the low hanging fruit in the developing countries because of the upper stiffer competition. What that may pertain in is that putting more pressure on domestic forces, because of lesser opportunities for exploitation and plunder internationally. That of course would point towards a nightmare scenario of a growth of the right wing and the kind of neo-Fascism that your question is pointing towards.
Marc Steiner: Well, I mean we can conclude with this. I think that what you said is pretty profound here. If you take the nature of capitalism out again and the underpinnings of development racist theory and racism that embeds the consciousness of humankind to this one because of what was built here on this planet, and if your analysis is correct, and let’s not think it’s not, I think it is correct, then it really is an uncertain future, that what we call Fascism in today’s nomenclature, this neo-Fascism is at our doorstep. And I think we’d be foolish to say it’s not.
Marc Steiner: And to me when I saw some articles vice that they written in the military journal from two former colonels, it’s almost like the establishment is a bellwether for what’s happening. The canary is in the coal mine, in terms of what’s happening. And so I’m curious when you look at the history, when both of you look at history, what does it say to us about what we have to think about in terms of what has to be built to confront and stop it?
Dr. Gerald Horne: Well, certainly the level of organization has to be stepped up. Not only with regard to working class organizations, which I’ve just made reference to, but I would make a particular plead to the black community because our saving grace historically, has been our ability to organize internationally. I think of the many tours of London and the British Isles made by Perfect Douglass beginning in the 1840s, when London was considered to be a top antagonist of a growing US imperialism for example. I think of Ida B. Wells and her tours of London in the 1890s and her campaign against lynching. I think of Paul Robeson in the early 1950s with regard to the recharge genocide petition, taking our plight to the then recently born United Nations seeking to put the leaders of US imperialism and the dock.
Dr. Gerald Horne: One of the reasons why Brown V. Board of Education, 1954, and the agonized retreat from the more egregious aspects of Jim Crow came when it did, was precisely to clip the wings of those like Robeson and the Civil Rights Congress and left wing forces, many of our mainstream organizations, except that, that bargain that is to say, throwing Robeson and his comrades overboard for these civil rights concessions.
Dr. Gerald Horne: But now what helped to drive that compromise, that is to say a rising national liberation movement, arising socialist count is no longer with us. And so US imperialism, it says that bargain of civil rights concessions, note the conditions that mandated it no longer obtain. And so therefore, we’re now forced into a corner. The way to fight our way out of that corner is to go back and revisit the lessons of history, organize internationally, starting, perhaps with United Nations based in New York or the organization of American States based in Washington, D.C. reaching out to our friends 90 miles from Florida in social dispute book, going further, south [inaudible 00:27:47]. I think that it’s apparent and evident what we need to do. The question is, do our organizations and leadership have the consciousness or the courage to pursue a path that can rescue us all?
Marc Steiner: Dr.Nikki Taylor.
Dr. Nikki Taylor: I wanted to ask Dr. Horne if he thinks the international community is as sensitive to the hypocrisy of American democracy, as it was when Ida B. Wells and Robeson and some of these other activists who were using the international sphere for that means. I’m not all that confident that the rest of the world is as vested in the plight of black America currently. I don’t think we will have the same level of sympathy as when we used to have at this current moment.
Dr. Gerald Horne: Well, that’s possible, but I don’t think we’ll know until we try. And certainly, I think that it’s not necessarily whether or not they’re interested in the plight of Black America, the question is, do they see a mutual interest with Black America and weakening the ultra right? Which not only threatens our interest, but threatens their interest too. That is to say that what Moscow and Washington together between 1941 and 1945, was not necessarily that they were on the same page, but they felt they had a mutual antagonist in Fascist Germany. I think the question is, do our friends in the international community see an interest in weakening the ultra right forces in Washington and on Wall Street? And I think many of them do.
Marc Steiner: Nikki you think you want to say something? Okay, I will wait.
Dr. Nikki Taylor: Just looking at history, we’ve tried a lot of these different strategies. We tried moral suasion, we tried economic boycotting, black nationalism. And I think at this moment, I’m not really sure what the solution is, other than organizing and raising the critical consciousness, of not just black people here in this part of the world, but also white Americans, other people of color. But as far as the path to liberation or to rest us free other the grips of this American Fascism, I don’t feel as hopeful in the solutions just because I do have all of this history in my head.
Marc Steiner: As we conclude here, let me bring this back home then for moment. I think what both of you are saying are right in terms of what the international world is, but also you look at the United States for a moment. But let’s end with talking about where we are internally and what the possibilities are we have here. And I was thinking about how the civil rights movement, the early civil rights movement with the inter-racial movement going south, with [inaudible 00:30:46]. I was thinking about this the other day and learning about this the other day, 70% of the freedom writers were white, were Jewish. And that’s because we came from a generation that was just right after the Holocaust and related completely to what the black world was going through because of what our stories of our parents and grandparents were.
Marc Steiner: And that was reality. And I wonder now in this century, when we’re seeing these masses of people in the streets. When we’re seeing a vast majority of people saying no to Trump, even though it doesn’t mean he wouldn’t win because of the electoral college, he came out of the history of enslavement in America. What does this say about our organizing here? What do you think happens here? What do you see at me here, that actually confront that future from our end? And is it a multi-racial or is that a myth and too hard to come by?
Dr. Gerald Horne: Well, I think if you look at what’s going on in the streets from New York through Kenosha to Portland, you’ll get a glimpse of the kind of multi-racial coalition, that makes some of us a bit more optimistic about the future. That is to say, if you look at who was gunned down in the streets in Kenosha, for example, in that particular instance, these were not black people were killed protesting what happened to the severely wounded, the Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Likewise, I’m heartened by the kinds of slogans that are being raised, for example, in Portland, Oregon, which is seen a state of unprecedented and unparalleled protests and it’s May 25th 2020, when George Floyd was lynched on camera in Minneapolis. What’s interesting is that many of the forces were raising the slogan of stolen people on stolen land. That is to say, the stolen people being the black people who were victimized by the transatlantic slave trade and the indigenous populations who had their land taken. In other words, they’re going to the essence of settler colonialism.
Dr. Gerald Horne: And unlike previous generations of the left, I take my hat to them, at least figuratively, but of course, they they were raising the Woody Guthrie hymn of this land is your land, this land is my land. And in some ways, eviscerating if not liquidating the question of native Americans that is to say this land is and was their land, and was taken through settler colonialism. We had an ideological advance, at least if you take Portland as a poor tip of what’s to come by raising this question of the very nature and essence of the state in this so-called Republic, and it’s quite appropriate that this takes place in Portland, since when it came into the union in the 1850s, the naive historians say that it was wanting anti-slavery basis, but actually it was one of the basis of no black people allowed, be they slave or be they free. And it’s that kind of historical misunderstanding that led to a certain naivety with regard to the potentiality of progress and progressive as a neon state.
Dr. Gerald Horne: So I’m heartened by the fact that our peers and comrades in Portland are really cutting to the essence of what this country is all about. And that gives me hope and optimism for the future.
Marc Steiner: And Nikki Taylor.
Dr. Nikki Taylor: I guess for me, if there’s some hope that I have in this moment is number one, it does seem to be inter-racial, fully inter-racial this movement and not only interracial and inter-ethnic, but they’re class dimensions. There’re all classes, socioeconomic classes are represented. And that’s gives me a little bit of hope in this current movement. In addition, the critique that’s coming out of this current movement seems to be a critique against the state’s complicity in these actions. And so I think that’s different and it’s lends itself well to action against the state and not necessarily action against white Americans or action against wealthy Americans, but the state’s role in this level of Fascism. And so that will allow for more unity I think across different classes and regions, because we see a common source of our oppression and that’s the state apparatus.
Marc Steiner: Dr. Nikki Taylor and Dr. Gerald Horne, this has been a fascinating discussion. I really love the engagement between the two of you and joining us here has been great and very thorough. We look forward to many more conversations like this. I really want to thank you for taking the time to join us here today. It’s been a pleasure to have you both.
Dr. Nikki Taylor: Thank you. My pleasure.
Dr. Gerald Horne: [crosstalk 00:35:38].
Marc Steiner: Real pleasure. I hope you enjoyed the conversation, and now we’re going to bring you a conversation with musician and drummer, Cindy Blackman Santana, as we take a deep dive into music, her music and the world of music and the black Latino worlds, and all of its political and spiritual decks.
Marc Steiner: What you’re hearing under me right now, which would be a singer song writer and virtuous drummer, Cindy Blackman Santana, who has worked for drummer Lenny Kravitz, and with her husband, Carlos Santana, many others that are her own quartet, including Pharaoh Sanders. She just released a new album that you’re hearing, Give the Drummer Some, and that’s what it does. The drummer takes the lead on vocals, speaking direction, the album being genres; pop, jazz, rock, middle hip hop, and funk. And today we sit down with Cindy Blackman Santana, to explore this new album and her inspiration for it.
Marc Steiner: Here at the Marc Steiner Show, we explore the intersection of culture and politics. And Cindy Blackman Santana, and her husband, Carlos Santana, as well as guests in this album, like Living Colors, Vernon Reed, and metal guitarist Kirk Hammett had been vocal politically for years. And facing the times where we are in now, artists give as much as the soundtrack, but unique point of view, to provide contact, insights, spirituality with their lyrics through their work. And they speak to us at times and they do very strongly on this album. Welcome Cindy Blackman Santana. Good to have you with this healing Marc Steiner Show and the Real News Network.
Cindy Blackman Santana: Thank You.
Marc Steiner: Let’s start, Cindy with, the first cut imagined. And [inaudible 00:37:25] gave you a thumbs up for doing this, which is no easy trick to get, but you got it. And your husband Santana, he’s doing this incredible solo. Talk a bit about this track and what inspired you to want to do this? I’m thinking, there is a certain way you opened it. You opened it with the Einstein’s quote, imagination is more important than knowledge, which is one of my favorite quotes that [inaudible 00:37:55] went through. And I actually like the whole thing that knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. Talk about that and why that began it, what all that meant.
Cindy Blackman Santana: Well that was Carlos’s idea to add that in front. And when he said it, I was like, wow, that’s brilliant. I love it. And it was just perfect because it sets the mood and not only for the song, but it sets the mood for the whole record. And it also sets the mood for the message that we wanted to present to people in doing this song. I felt that it was a perfect intro to use that. And we’ve escalated with a couple of songs as to open it for the record, but we always came back to Imagine. And Carlos and I like to take rides in the car. We both make up separate playlists and then we play each other’s playlist and then we see what might need to be moved here, what flows here or there.
Cindy Blackman Santana: It’s like a little fun thing that we do, but it’s funny because invariably, we always came back to Imagine as the opener. And so with the addition of that Einstein quote, it was just hands down, it had to be that opening. And the message of the song is so poignant and so very relevant today. It’s sadly relevant on one hand, because it’s too bad that we still have to talk about certain things. It’s still too bad that we have certain issues in society that have not been cleared as of yet. It’s too bad that we have to give messages like this, but it’s also a fortunate thing for us that we have songs like this that are so strong and that the messages are so beautiful and so poignant that we can share.
Marc Steiner: When you first started drumming with Carlos Santana in that tour, and what you’re describing is doing something [inaudible 00:40:16] spiritual, political connection, that happened between the two of you. And the riff you just went through, is that-
Cindy Blackman Santana: Yes, absolutely. When first met … well, we were briefly introduced at one point, we were both playing on a festival together. I was playing with Lenny Kravitz and of course he was with his band Santana, and I just might’ve seen been passing, I didn’t talk to him. And in 2010, he needed a sub for a drummer. And then he called me to do that and of course I wanted to play with that band so I said yes. It was just the one gate thing. But we started talking and really connecting. And there was something that was lacking in my life at that point, which was having a partner who was on a spiritual path that was parallel to mine in terms of the quest of that desire.
Cindy Blackman Santana: Not that it had to be exactly like mine, but in terms of the intention and the intent and the importance in that individual’s life. And so I hadn’t had a guy like that in my life in quite a while. When we started talking, it was like, whoa, I really like how this is going. And then on top of that, he loved Miles Davis and he invited me to listen to some Miles Davis and some Tony Williams. And then he got me. He got the spiritual and he got Miles and Tony, okay.
Marc Steiner: Well, when I was listening to the album the first time, I texted Ericka Blount, who I worked with on this program and producers with me. And I said, “Ericka, this sounds like Miles.” And then I said, “Oh, wait, that’s [inaudible 00:42:12], miles away.”
Cindy Blackman Santana: He’s probably my all time favorite musician, apart from my drummers. He’s been my favorite. I love Miles, love what he did, on the instrument, what he did in the music, over the decades and what he was a catalyst for and what he allowed to happen in his band, which was that he trusted the musicians enough and he chose genius musicians. And he trusted them enough to just say, “Okay, go, what do you got?” Just a little direction here and there, but he was like one of very few people, if many who have changed the course of music as many times as he did. Tony Whims would be another one and there are many more, that have changed the course of music that much, like seven times Miles changed the course of music I believe.
Cindy Blackman Santana: It’s really just amazing, and so he’s one of my all time favorites, I love jazz. It’s my thing. I got turned on to the complexities of jazz in terms of drumming when I was 13. We had a family friend who was a drummer who played … his name was Doug Woods and he changed his name to Dawood. He played with Jackie McLean. He was a good buddy of Jackie’s and they did a lot of playing together, and he was a family friend of ours. And he wrote out on a piece of paper, which I still have somewhere in my archives and this was from when I was 13.
Cindy Blackman Santana: He drew a picture of a plant on one side and a great drawing. He drew a beautiful plant on one side. And on the other side, he wrote out this passage from Max Roach that he was playing with a ride pattern, and triplets in the left-hand [inaudible 00:44:20] and bass drum feathering on [inaudible 00:44:25] symbol. And at 13, I was like, oh, really? They do that with all four limbs. Because I had just been hearing drummers that played like a threelimb style or the funk drummers, the rock drummers, the pop drummers, but from then on I was hooked because it was very intriguing to me that it had so many complexities and so many textures and gave you so many choices, because with using a forelimb style, you can use four limbs or you can use three, or you can use two, or you can use one, but you have all the choices. And so I was really drawn to that. Jazz is definitely at my core. That’s my route and I can’t change that even if I wanted to. I couldn’t, and I don’t want to, but I couldn’t because that’s-
Marc Steiner: Why would you?
Cindy Blackman Santana: I wouldn’t. It’s who I am.
Marc Steiner: Right. You can feel it and you can feel it from the music and actually your interviews, you can feel it there too. I mean it’s there.
Cindy Blackman Santana: I’m happy about that because I want people to not only love what I love, but I want them to know this music because it’s so creatively inspiring for a person to use this noggin, this brain. My dad used to say, “It ain’t just a hat rack, which means use the intellect you got, think. You got a brain use it.”
Cindy Blackman Santana: And so in jazz, you’re really stretching the boundaries of that because you have, like I was saying so many complexities of harmony, rhythm, melody interplay, concept technique, it’s all there for us to explore. I want more people to know about that because the more freethinkers we have, the more creative thinkers we have, the more sparks of creativity and energy and light that we have the more productive, the more powerful, the more beautiful, the more peaceful, the more God-like our society will be, because God is the supreme creator, and I’m not a fanatic but to me, that’s the truth. I wanted to share that with people because it’s infectious and I want people to catch that infection [inaudible 00:46:51]. We don’t need infections, [inaudible 00:46:57].
Marc Steiner: When you cut this album we’re now in the midst of all these struggles with George Floyd, the fire is burning to people taking racism with seriousness that has never happened before. Millions of people in the street, and you have mother earth, you have social justice. And that wrapped by Andy Vargas, and with his stop the madness, it’s social justice. Stop the madness, it’s social justice.
Marc Steiner: When did you cut this and I think get to pitch this moment?
Cindy Blackman Santana: Well, we did this way before COVID. For us, it’s really enlightening to see that it just fits into a niche where it’s really needed right now. We need messages like that. But it was definitely done before COVID. The only thing that we did during COVID was just finish the logistics of the liner notes. Because the artwork was already done, the music was already done. And then we recorded some videos in COVID. But everything else was finished. For Social Justice, I had some ideas that I wrote down and I gave to Andy and I said, this is subject matter. And this is what I want to convey. And Andy just started writing stuff and he came back with this rap that was just off the hook.
Cindy Blackman Santana: It was so off the hook that initially, I was … I really am an advocate for children, everything about children. Education of children, helping the abused and child trafficked children, finding ways to inspire children. And so I wanted to call it, save the babies, which we used in there, little bit we use that phrase, but Andy came up with the actual title, Social Justice through the stuff that he was rapping.
Cindy Blackman Santana: He’s just really brilliant because he just took the core of what I wanted to say. And then he just really expounded and just came up with this stuff that’s just incredible. It really fits right in. Everybody on this record was really keyed in and in tune, whether we knew it or not, we were in tune with some messages and some feelings and some energy, that are very timely for this moment.
Marc Steiner: It is the time we are living in, the music is part of the resistance. It is part of giving people a visual intellectual feel for what we’re facing. I was thinking that all through social justice and how that combines that political spiritual element, but it is. You know behind me that’d be political in its local moment, and your work sees through that.
Cindy Blackman Santana: Thank you. That means a lot, because that means that the message is translating that’s the point. The point is for the message to translate, the point is for the message to inspire, the point is for the message to really be a catalyst for individual thinking and individual growth, but also the unity of everyone to understand that we’re all wrapped in something different. Whether we have blonde hair blue eyes, brown hair, red hair, brown eyes, white skin, yellow skin, caramel skin, brown skin, blue-black skin, whatever it is, we need to understand that there’s one human race with race variance. There is one species called a flower, but flowers have many variants, and that’s the same as the human race. There’s one race but different variants. We have hues, H-U-E. We have hues in this humanity. And it’ll be a great day when everybody recognizes that as beautiful, because I think it is beautiful.
Marc Steiner: All right. We conclude it. We create those things that divide us, and no, we don’t, but society has created those things that divide us. And [inaudible 00:52:00], I was thinking about that in terms of how you use your love of art, the spirituality, the politics. I’ve heard you talk about [inaudible 00:52:09] with the textures, and the connections we are using and how it’s endless. And I think that’s one of the things that usually does for us sometimes is to bring those connections together, and maybe see there’s a different way to live. You don’t have to preach it and beat it. You feel it, move it, and that’s what I think you’re trying to do. [inaudible 00:52:36] what you do. That’s how it feels, you find it.
Cindy Blackman Santana: Well, I appreciate that actually, you’re right, because music is interminable in its effect that it can have on people. And the one thing that translates every barrier and blockage that we put up. And whether it’s language, whether it’s the guise of religion, whether it’s the guise of culture or whatever it is we make up in our heads, music transcends all of that. You can have a song that a person who is completely liberal is listening to, somebody who just loves everyone, has no prejudices, no nothing. Then you can look a person who is a complete racist against anybody who’s different from them. No matter what the difference is, they can listen to the same song and like the same song. How is that? It’s because music touches on so many other levels that are much deeper than just the surface of you hearing the song, especially if your heart is open, especially if you are true to your own vibration and to the vibration of whatever music is sending out, if you’re not blocking that.
Cindy Blackman Santana: Music is a beautiful thing and I’m really proud to have been given the gift of exploring that, and the gift of being able to hone in and try to develop it more and more. And the gift of being able to share that with other people.
Marc Steiner: I want to come back to the world we’re in right now. And we’ve covered that a lot together on our program. To me I feel like we’re on a precipice. And when you see these 100 million people at once, the streets has [inaudible 00:54:44] was murdered. And you see that, you see the responses we’re getting, and the kind of, but one of a better term, white racist kind of folks in the streets combating everybody. And we’re at a very difficult time. And I listened to your album at least three times in a row after Ericka sent it to me. And [inaudible 00:55:13], and I sent it out to my daughters and said, “Listen to this album. I know you’re a hip hop gurus, but listen to this album.” They will beat me up for saying that. Can you just speak to where we are now and how it touches you and what you want to say about that?
Cindy Blackman Santana: We can really take a look at what all of our previous actions as a society have done in terms of bringing us to this point. Why are we at the point that we’re at? We have to ask ourselves why? We have to ask ourselves, how do we get here? What could we have done to not be in this place but to be in a more peaceful place? And what can we do now to fix that? We have to understand that there’s still a lot of hatred, and then we have to understand what the energy of hatred does to understand why we need to eradicate that, because what does hatred do? Hatred decays, not only society, but it decays brains, it decays bodies, it’s like pouring acid on something, that’s what hatred is. It’s like taking a big vat of acid and just [inaudible 00:56:53], it’s just going to destroy everything.
Cindy Blackman Santana: This period to me, this great pause, and I only call it great pause, it’s not because of the loss of life or because of any of the tragedies of fatalities that we’ve had, but I call it a great pause because in this moment of everything having stopped for a minute, gives us a chance to rewire this, to reset this, and to rewire this and to reset this, to rewire these and to reset these. But we don’t always use that to our advantage in a positive way. But if we understand that, that’s a gift that we’re given, the power of reason and choice, and if we understand that the more choices that we make that are helpful, loving, and kind, the better we’re going to make every person on the planet and the better we’re going to make this entire planet, this entire realm, this entire world.
Cindy Blackman Santana: If you think of … for instance, when I’m playing brushes, what I used to say to myself, especially when I was first learning how to play brushes. And even now, I think of playing certain things on the brushes so delicately that I could play that on a baby’s belly and it wouldn’t hurt it. I think of doing things in such a gentle way that my grandmother … my grandmothers are transitioned already, but my grandmother, the sweetest woman in the world, my other grandmother, the sweetest woman in the world, my mother, sweetest woman in the world, that I could see myself just rubbing their cheeks and doing something so sweet to them that it would make them smile. If we can treat everybody with that kind of reverence and that kind of respect, then we’re going to start to see some changes. And so each individual can really look at themselves in the eye and discern and determine, and ascertain, what it is that they need to do to make changes that will help this flow become much sweeter. And that’s a responsibility, but it’s a responsibility that we all need to take.
Marc Steiner: Well, Cindy Blackman Santana, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time. Appreciate your mind, your music, and what you bring to us. Thank you.
Cindy Blackman Santana: Thank you too. This has been a beautiful interview. I really appreciate it. And hopefully talk to you again.
Marc Steiner: Thank you for joining us today. So for producer, Ericka Blount and editor Seba Pituscan, I’m Marc Steiner for the Marc Steiner Show right here on the Real News Network. Thanks for joining us and take care.
Production: Ericka Blount
Post-Production: Sebastian Pituscan