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TONIGHT IN PROVIDENCE: Isis Storm Friend, We Run This Artist, Queen Yonasda, Gives Surprise Performance

11 Mar

You’ve heard her on WRIU’s Venus Sings Radio, 5th Elament Radio, and BSR’s Sonic Watermelons, and you saw her live in Providence at We Run This! Women and Mother in Hip Hop. Catch her in a special performance TONIGHT in Providence…

Queen Yonasda

All Hail The Queen

Saturday, March 10, 2012

11:30 PM @ Fete Lounge
103 Dike Street
Providence, RI 02909

From Sonic Watermelons to the State House: Fighting to End Racial Profiling in RI

7 Mar

Click above to hear an excerpt from an interview about Racial Profiling in RI with youth leaders, ‎Sangress Xiong and Yonara Alvarado, and community organizer, Franny Choi, from Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM).  An extended interview can be heard here.

PROVIDENCE, RI – Have you ever been stopped and thought it was because of your race/ethnicity or age, or been searched and thought, I’m sure this is illegal?  If you answered yes to one of these questions, you may have experienced a practice once known as “Driving While Black” but better known these days as Racial Profiling.

Did you know that you can speak out against this practice?  Today, Wednesday, March 7, community members and advocates are expected to show up en masse to share their views on racial profiling in RI at a hearing at the State House before the House Committee on Judiciary.  Starting at 4:30 PM, the legislative committee will hear testimony about several bills related to motorists; the Comprehensive Racial Profiling Prevention Act is one of the bills.

But folks have been speaking out on the topic for years, including youth and adult advocates from Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), an organization founded to support Southeast Asian Youth in Providence.  Hear more about their work in the video above or here in this extended podcast of excerpts from my February 15 interview with PrYSM youth leaders, ‎Sangress Xiong and Yonara Alvarado, and PrYSM staffer Franny Choi.  It aired lived on my weekly program, Sonic Watermelons on Brown Student and Community Radio.

During the interview, Xiong, Alvarado and Choi talk about recent campaign actions, like the February press conference introducing House Bill 7256, the making of the local documentary called Fitting the Description, and other recent activities that they have participated in with PrYSM and the Coalition Against Racial Profiling.  Alvarado (who is Latina) says she became passionate about the topic after being in the car and witnessing racial profiling when her uncle was stopped by an officer, and subsequently feeling less faith in whether officers are best serving the community; Xiong, who is Hmong (Southeast Asian), helps explain how a practice once known as “Driving while Black” has expanded to include not only the Latino/Hispanic community, but the Southeast Asian community in Providence as well – including friends and neighbors of his.

I also spoke with the three guests about the benefits and limitations of using digital media tools to collect stories from people who’ve been subjected to racial profiling, and for doing outreach about legislative efforts like the Comprehensive Racial Profiling Prevention Act that will be reviewed and discussed at next Wednesday’s House Judiciary hearing.  The ten-page bill deals primarily with conduct during motor vehicle stops and searches, and among the provisions are:

  • Requirements for officers to document (in writing) the “reasonable suspicion” or “probable cause” grounds for conducting a search of any motor vehicle,
  • A determination that identification requested during traffic stops be limited to driver’s license, motor vehicle registration, and/or proof of insurance, and (unless there is probable cause of criminal activity) only asked of drivers
  • A mandate to create standard policies and protocols for police vehicles using recording equipment, such as documenting every stop that is made and prohibiting the tampering or disengagement of equipment.

In addition to collecting the probable cause information, the bill would require officers to collect data on race during stops – and departments to maintain and report this data at intervals over a 4 year period.  Choi says collecting data is key to ending racially divisive practices, and – along with the ACLU in their work on the topic – points to a local, southern RI city for proof of its inclusion in the bill as being “effective legislation.”

In Narragansett, says Choi in the excerpts, the department began collecting information without the legislation, and found a drop in “racial disparities in stops” after instituting the policy.  The ACLU also found recent actions and improvements in Johnston.  At the end of the day, says Choi, “when you’re pulling someone over, have a reason to pull them over.”


To connect with PrYSM about their work on Racial Profiling, visit or  For more information about the Coalition Against Racial Profiling or next Wednesday’s hearing, contact Nick Figueroa of the Univocal Legislative Minority Advisory Coalition (ULMAC) by email at  Anyone can attend the hearing and sign up to testify, but Figueroa highly encourages anyone who would be testifying for the first time to contact him in advance for information and tips on the process of giving testimonies and what to expect in the hearing.  For example, four other bills are scheduled to be discussed on the same night and in the same hearing (meeting), so 4:30 may be the start-time for the hearing, but not necessarily when the Racial Profiling Bill is addressed.

Pieces of this article also appeared in a March 2 article on, while Sonic Watermelons airs live every Wednesday, from 6-8 PM (EST) at  Additional clips from the interview can be heard here in an extended podcast of the interview.

Events Coming Up with Isis Storm Co-founder, Reza Rites

11 Feb

Celebrating Frederick Douglass &
“Living Legend” Jibreel Khazan

TODAY, Saturday, Feb 11, 2012
2:30pm until 5:30pm
New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park
33 William Street
New Bedford, MA 02740

(NEW BEDFORD, MA) – New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, La Soul Renaissance: Overflowing Cup Project, and Dj Reza Wreckage of Isis Storm and invite you to celebrating our story, our past, while honoring our present. On February 11 we will be celebrating the Birthdate of Frederick Douglass and also Jibreel Khazan founding member of the Greensboro Four from the sit-in movement. Apostle Jibreel Khazan turned 70 years old this year and we felt it was only fitting to honor the living legend, while recognizing historical legend Frederick Douglass.

For this event we have book some amazing artist whose art, vibe, message and work reflects the message and passion of both Jibreel Khazan and all the ancestors and elders who have carried the baton of freedom, human rights, justice, and love. For this amazing event we will have the Guest of Honor Jibreel Khazan, the Cape Verdean Reggae Band Afrika Rainbow, New Bedford Hip Hop artist Caliph by way of Senegal Africa, Acoustic Soul Singer Cedric Josey, Poet/Emcee/Vocalist Raena Camacho, Slam Poet Frederick Douglass Knowles from Connecticut, YAP (Youth Ambassador’s Program), YouthBuild New Bedford, and Erik Andrade and the Overflowing Cup Project and more.

Please come out and support the Good Brother Jibreel Khazan while celebrating the legacy of Frederick Douglass. If you would like to get involved or help spread the word please do, or contact Erik Andrade at


Celebrating Asia and Pacific Islander Cultures…

Native Tongues & Spoken Words:
A Bilingual Poetry Night and Open Mic

Featuring Indonesian Singer/Songwriter, Agus Lele
Presented by
Thursday, February 16, 2012
7:00-10:00 PM
Roots Cultural Center
276 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903
$5.00 admission
Open mic sign-ups at 7:30 PM
or in advance,

(PROVIDENCE, RI) – Join and Friends for the next Bilingual Poetry night produced by radio DJ, digital storyteller and cultural navigator Reza Clifton. This month’s edition is dedicated to celebrating Asia and Pacific Islander cultures and features Indonesian-born Blues Singer/Songwriter, Agus Lele, of the group The Bali Brothers!

The night also includes an open mic for poets, storytellers, and other lyricists and performers sharing works in English, Hmong, Khmer, Spanish and/or any language of their choosing. Plus music by me, DJ Reza Wreckage (of, Isis Storm, WRIU, and

Sign-ups start promptly at 7:00 PM or sign up ahead of time by email at or through a comment on the Facebook event page. For additional event / venue information visit


Philadelphia-based Women and Media Activist Group, FAAN Mail, Launch Campaign Supporting Ethnic Studies in Arizona

3 Feb

By Reza Clifton / Reza Rites

Click here to check out my recent interview with Nuala Cabral and Denice Frohman of FAAN Mail, a Philadelphia-based media activist group that has launched a social media campaign (on Twitter, primarily, #WishiLearnedinHS), “Wished I Learned in High School,” in response to policies in Arizona restricting ethnic studies programs.  Click on the video above to learn about on-the-ground protests in Arizona.

(PROVIDENCE, RI; PHILADELPHIA, PA; TUCSON, AZ) – When does learning about non-Europeans/non-Whites in the US constitute promoting resentment toward a race or class?

When does learning about the development of the US and manifest destiny and those who opposed such policies cross the line to become promoting the overthrow of the US government?

When did a class providing awareness about the societal and civic contributions of one of this country’s minority/ethnic groups become illegal?

These are some of the questions being asked by activists, students, and journalists all over the country, though the answer to number three might be more clear: it’s been over a year since the governor of Arizona signed into law House Bill 2281, “which prohibits a school district or charter school (in Arizona) from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that promote the overthrow of the United States government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

Yet it is recent events that have re-stirred up the questions, concerns, and heated debates on the topic: the final termination of the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, Arizona – and the removal of corresponding books from Tucson schools that are now part of a list of banned literature.

Critics of the legislation say that the policies curtail teacher creativity, and call the law an attempt to further silence and marginalize people of color in a state becoming infamous for what many view as one anti-immigrant or anti-Brown policy after another.  Supporters of the state law – and the recent move by Tucson officials – cite the Mexican American Studies program as an example of a program that promotes one racial/ethnic group over all others, and say that programs like these promote a victimization mentality.

But critics aren’t buying it, and they’re not standing by quietly.  Two such activists are Nuala Cabral and Denice Frohman of FAAN Mail (Fostering Activism and Alternatives Now!), FAAN Mail is a media literacy/media activism project formed by women of color to promote pro-active audiences and creative alternatives.

Cabral and Frohman are based in Philadelphia, MA, but they’re not letting geography stop their actions.  On the contrary, Cabral, Frohman and the FAAN Mail community have launched a social media campaign (on Twitter, primarily, #WishiLearnedinHS), “Wished I Learned in High School,” to collect and share stories from people who can speak to the benefits they’ve gained from Ethnic Studies programs and to the regrets they feel about not getting enough exposure to the stories of people of color, women, LGBT writers, and other voices in their K-12 years.

Cabral and Frohoman say they are outraged that racist/conservative ideology has prevailed over data on programs that have been proven to be effective for students of color (who are at more risk for dropping out), and bothered that what hasn’t been acknowledged is the idea that there are already preferential treatments built into the educational system – those that favor the stories, ideas, history and perspectives of wealthy, western, white men.

Click here to check out my audio podcast/interview with Cabral and Frohman, which was recorded and originally aired on Sonic Watermelons on on Wednesday, February 1.  Click here to see a short video about some of the on-the-ground student and community organizing.

Or check out the links below to learn more about the FAAN Mail campaign and the Arizona saga.

If Not Now, Then When? Deadline TODAY for Submissions and Ideas for National Conference Coming to Providence

31 Jan


Reminder from Reza Rites

Friends, today (right before midnight, PACIFIC time) is the deadline for submitting panels/speakers/ideas for Netroots Nation, a huge national conference COMING TO PROVIDENCE IN JUNE 2012. Picture a basement party where hip hop and reggae DJ’s meet up, or where acoustic singer-songwriters and poets jam out…Well Netroots is kind of like that: a national meet up for members of the digital and progressive communities; of bloggers and social activists. AND THEY WANT TO SEE DIVERSITY.

Now, don’t give me that “why didn’t you tell me earlier stuff.” If you want to participate, then do it. And if you want an earlier heads up, follow the blogs I write for AND JOIN ME AT MY EVENTS!!!

Here is the link; hope you submit something. Trust me, it’s do-able in the 12 hours or less you have left.

For more inforamtion on Netroots Nation, visit or follow local updates here on and on

Coming Up From Isis Storm

27 Jan

TONIGHT (January 27, 2012):

Annual Charity Record Show @ The Dead Cat
Friday, January 27, 2012
8:00 – 11:00 PM
669 Elmwood Ave, Ste. A1,
Providence, RI
$10.00 to enter / Free Drinks
Artwork on records by local artists for sale

Musical Performances By:

Grey Sanford

The Invisible Hours

Six Fingered Saints

Gertrude Atherton

Hot Shits, Part Deux


The Dubber

DJ Reza Wreckage


Monday, January 30:

Laughter Yoga w. B-mor 7

Final Class
6:15 – 7:15 PM / $10.00

@Providence Healing Arts
2162 Broad Street, Pawtuxet Village
Cranston, RI 02905



Tuesday, January 31

5th Elament and B-mor 7 Perform PLUS Art on Display by Tamara Diaz…

AFRICAN-AMERICAN IDENTITY Exhibit Living on Both Sides of the Hyphen


January 31 5:00—7:00 pm
with music by The Groovalottos, Yoruba 2, and local spoken word performers.

Afro-American, Afro-Native, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Asian, Afro-European. How does one negotiate the hyphen? This exhibit will explore ‘Identity’ and the different issues that surround that ‘hyphen, examining this struggle and celebrating the cultural richness.
This event is free and open to the public

The Exhibit Runs January 23–February 24 and features artworks in all media from :

Gregorio Aleman, Sharon Armour, Isabel Baez, Tyna Braxton, Marlene Britto, Tallibah and Carlos Cabral, Tamara Diaz, Felix Diclo, Kim Ellery, Manuel Fernando, George Garcia, Stephen Gross, Jerock, Evangelista Jimenez, Todd Jones, Victor Justo, Nixon Ledger, Leonard Lentini, Titilola O. Martins, Cindy Taylor Meeks, Donna Mitchell, Munir Mohammed, Onna Moniz John, James Montford and his class project, Carole Moody, Peaceable Kingdom, Lydia Perez, Hannah Ressiger, Gaddier Rosario, Basma Samira, Waleska Santiago, Brittanny Tayor, Simone Spruce Torres, Anita Trezvant, Daniel Walker, Penny Gamble-Williams.

Reza Rites Speaks with Activist and Scholar Angela Davis

26 Jan

Click on the picture above to hear a podcast/interview with Dr. Angela Davis. It was produced by me, Reza Rites.

(PROVIDENCE, RI) – Imagination, collective struggle, and the inclusion of ordinary and disenfranchised people.  These were among the themes and lessons shared on Monday, January 23, 2012, when famed scholar, activist, and former prisoner (acquitted of charges including murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy), Dr. Angela Davis, spoke at RI School of Design. Part of a week of service dedicated to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Davis’ keynote address covered the topic of “Building Communities of Activism.”

Her talk included a discussion of King’s belief in collective action despite the memorializing of him as the face of the Civil Rights Movement; an examination of the New Deal from the perspective of the protests and direct actions that prompted the policies that emerged after the 1930’s era Depression; and an analysis of the “prison abolition movement” as an important part of the worldwide struggle for social justice, workers rights, and economic equality.

Davis also talked about and periodically referenced the Occupy (Wall Street) Movement throughout her talk, including the site here in Providence.  At times, she was thoughtfully critical about what many have documented as the movement’s absence or sparsity of space for discussions about race, class, and the “intersectionality” of these and other issues in the Occupy encampments, as well as concerns associating the US occupy movements with traditional American occupation narratives of Native lands, Puerto Rico, Iraq, and other sites associated with the rise (and ills) of “global capitalism.”  Davis displayed this same kind of caring admonition in reference to the exclusion of prison labor union issues in spaces created by the “free union movement,” expressing pride in the advancements but honesty in the historical tendency to leave certain groups out (ie. women, people of color, and prisoners).

Overall, though, Davis expressed an unbridled show of support and enthusiasm for Occupy activities (and the labor movement), citing Occupy as the main reason why a climate exists again in this country for discussions on economic inequalities and the failures of capitalism.  Notably, she also inserted occupy in her speech, reframing the syntax and lexicons usually used in historical texts about Civil Rights and Worker movements, where terms and phrases like “sit-ins” and “street demonstrations” became sites or examples of people who “occupied” spaces.

Conscious of her audience and the origins of the invitation – RISD, an art school – and in response to a question from a student, Davis encouraged artists to continue making their art.  Harkening back to the ordinary people who joined because of their collective abilities to imagine a world without segregation, racism, jails, etc. Davis says that artists are in the practice of imagining the impossible, and that alone is a gift to the world – and contribution to the movement.


Click above to hear a short podcast with Dr. Angela Davis.  In a brief interview after her address, I asked Davis more about the history of race relations within the labor movement, and she replied with an abbreviated timeline of when and why Blacks were excluded.  She went on to discuss the benefits of integration in the Labor movement, citing one group in particular – the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (the ILWU).  A labor union that primarily represents workers on the West Coast, the ILWU accepted Black workers as members as early as the 1930’s.  Later in the century, explained Davis, Black workers within the ILWU helped introduce new “radical” ideas into the labor union movement, including during the global campaign to dismantle Apartheid South Africa.

The podcast is produced by me Reza Clifton (Reza Rites / Venus Sings / DJ Reza Wreckage).  Music by (and played with permission from) The Blest Energy Band ft. Tem Blessed & The Empress. The song, “The Struggle,” comes from their album “Re-Energized,” which was released January 20, 2012.

See more podcasts and multimedia work by me on, and

Vendor And Sponsor Opps Still Available for Jan 20 “Soul Rebels” Event: Reminder from Isis Storm and the Empower Communities Project

18 Jan

(NEW BEDFORD, MA) – This Friday in New Bedford is going to be amazing. The only thing that might make it better?  A few more of you signing on as vendors, sponsors, or plain ol’ donors for Soul Rebels Unite: An Empower Communities Event and Reggae Bashment.  Specific support levels being requested are $50, $100, $250, $500, $1000, $3000, as well as tickets purchased and donated.  Read more about the event – and the opportunities – below, click here to download the information packet, or contact me, Reza (email,; phone, 401-217-9680.  To donate online, click here.


Dear Friend / Sir / Madam,

I am writing to tell you about some thought-provoking events coming to the local area and to tell you about a fun way that you can be involved in transforming your community.  The Empower Communities Project, originally The Empower Providence Project, is a series that kicked off its inaugural celebration in October 2010 to give local and national artists a chance to showcase their talent and approach to music and grassroots community organizing.

The aims of the Empower Communities Project are to gather resources and audiences around the topic of using art and media for changing communities, and to introduce new audiences to professional artists who play music reflecting community issues and concerns.  The series emerged as an alternative way of engaging young people and underserved communities in creating their own solutions and repairing their own cities.

On Friday, January 20, 2012, we will bring a third installment of the newly named Empower Communities Project to the city of New Bedford with Soul Rebels Unite: An Empower Communities Event and Reggae Bashment.  Soul Rebels Unite will highlight activists and change-makers from the city alongside regional, national, and internationally-known music acts, including Tem Blessed and the Blest Energy Band, featuring The Empress aka Cita-Light; singer-songwriter and recording artist, The Dubber; and Isis Storm, a collective of female hip hop artists, spoken word poets, visual artists and producers.

Soul Rebels Unite will be held at the Black Watch Pub, 266 Dartmouth Street in New Bedford, MA, with community workshops and a “People of Culture Mixer and Marketplace” going on from 7:00-9:00 pm and with live music and DJ’ing from 9:00pm-2:00am. The event is open to the public and attendees that are 21 or older.  Admission is $7 for members of the public, with special rates and tickets available to grassroots organizations and small businesses who want to help sponsor the event.

In the vein of the previous Empower events, activists, entrepreneurs, poets and musicians (including recent New Bedford School Committee candidate, Erik Andrade) will lead the Mixer and Marketplace, and prior to the event, several of the evening’s performers will engage in work with youth – specifically participating in a brown bag lunch discussion and intimate performance with participants of YouthBuild New Bedford.

To learn more about several of the featured bands, or for more information about vendor and sponsor rates, see the pages accompanying this letter or contact Empower Communities lead organizer, Reza Clifton, by email at or by phone at (401) 217-9680.


Thank you for your time and consideration,

The Soul Rebels Unite & Empower Communities Organizers & Coalition

(, Isis Storm, RI Jobs with Justice, Environmental Justice League of RI, Mount Hope Learning Center, We HEAL Sakinah’s Herbs, rhymeculture RI, Collective Thought Media, La Soul Renaissance, YouthBuild New Bedford.)



Tem Blessed is a hip hop artist that was born in West Africa, but who currently lives in New Bedford, MA where he performs and uses Hip Hop as a tool to educate, empower and inspire youth and communities. As a Green for All Fellow, and father of two, he has been active in “Greening” New Bedford through work with YouthBuild New Bedford and by making activism-focused Hip Hop music like the “Green Anthem,” which he did with another area nonprofit organization, 3rd Eye Unlimited.  Musically, he has worked to elevate underground Hip Hop and, along and with his band, Blest Energy, has consistently put out albums, including his 2009 release, “BleSSed Energy.”  On January 20, Tem Blessed, Blest Energy and the Empress aka Cita-Light will be supporting their album “Re-Energized,” which will officially be on sale beginning on January 11.

THE Dubber is a self-taught singer/songwriter who fuses American Rock, Jazz and Funk along with Reggae, Middle Eastern and Afro Beat styles to express his emotions and complete his distinctive sound.  Born in Washington DC, but currently based out of Columbia SC, the Dubber’s performance background also includes turns doing hard core metal and roots reggae.  Recently returned from a tour in Europe, the Dubber has blazed a trail internationally with honest and intimate acoustic performances of selections from his albums, including his 2010 release, “Global Warning.”  With experience playing such prestige events as South by Southwest in Austin, TX and the Mid-Atlantic Music Conference, The Dubber offers audiences a glimpse at a unique, Black American Roots sound from a seasoned music professional.

Isis Storm is a RI-based collective of women who use art, words and music – primarily poetry, hip hop music and dj’ing – to empower women and underserved communities, specifically through performances, workshops, and media projects. The group was founded by Reza C. Clifton (DJ Reza Wreckage) – an award-winning blogger, DJ, and multimedia producer – and by hip hop artist, poet and scholar-educator, Kalyana Champlain (5th Elament).  Clifton and Champlain have traveled throughout the East Coast performing and giving workshops on women’s empowerment, hip hop music, and diversity in the media.

Other Confirmed Artists:

  • Erik Andrade (New Bedford-based Spoken Word Artist)
  • King-I (Reggae artist)
  • Members of The AS220 Criss Cross Orchestra (Afrobeat band)
  • DJ Blade Mon (Radio DJ and regional Reggae DJ)
  • Rebel International (New Bedford-based Collective of Reggae DJ’s)

Join Reza Rites TODAY, 4 PM, at Roots in Providence: “Wealth Disparities and Dr. King’s Dream”

15 Jan

Join me, Isis Storm co-founder Reza Clifton, to honor and recognize the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. TODAY from 4:00-6:30 PM at Roots Cultural Center, 276 Westminster Street in Downtown Providence.  I’ll be MC’ing (hosting) and moderating the event and panel, and I look forward to the discussions and keynote speaker.  However, I’d love to have your voice and contributions at the event and there will be plenty of time for audience participation, so please plan to join us! – Reza Rites 

(PROVIDENCE, RI) On Sunday, January 15th, from 4:00pm-6:30pm (registration begins at 3:30pm) at the Roots Cultural Center located at 276 Westminster St., the RI Civil Rights Roundtable will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday with a free event on how economic disparities affect our communities. The forum continues Dr. King’s work near the end of his lifetime of leadership, focused on the economics of discrimination. Noted speaker and author, Rev. Dr. Kirk Jones of Andover Newton Theological School will open and close this event.

The event will also host a panel of speakers including Rev. Joyce Penfield, Director/Founder of The Blessing Way, Keila Rodriguez, founder of the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church’s StepUp Program and Dr. Warren Simmons of Brown University, Director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, with Moderator Reza Clifton.

A Networking Reception will follow the program, with birthday cake, music, and refreshments.

More info here on Facebook.

Laughter Yoga w. B-mor 7: Every Monday, January 2012, Pawtuxet Village in Cranston

7 Jan

Laughter Yoga w. B-mor 7

(Monday, Jan 2, 9, 16, 23, 30)
6:15 – 7:15 PM / $10.00

@Providence Healing Arts
2162 Broad Street, Pawtuxet Village
Cranston, RI 02905


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