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Wicked Theory, Naked Practice

Wicked Theory, Naked Practice: A Fred Ho Reader

edited by Diane C. Fujino
foreword by Robin D. G. Kelley
afterword by Bill V. Mullen
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 440
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  • Book Info
    Wicked Theory, Naked Practice
    Book Description:

    For more than three decades, Fred Ho has been a radical artist and activist. As a composer and saxophonist, he is famed for creating music that fuses Asian and African traditions. The influence of the Black Power and Black Arts movements inspired him to become one of the leading radical Asian American activist–artists. Wicked Theory, Naked Practice is a groundbreaking collection of Ho’s writings, speeches, and interviews.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6790-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VIII)
    (pp. IX-XII)
  4. FOREWORD Tomorrow Is Now!
    (pp. 1-6)
    Robin D. G. Kelley

    “You’ve got to hear this!” My sister Makani, flushed with excitement, pulled a bright-colored album out of her bag. I remember chuckling over the cover art: the colors of the rainbow breaking through storm clouds like sun rays, forming what could have been a metaphoric vagina à la Georgia O’Keeffe or Judy Chicago. I laughed because it was near the end of 1985 or early 1986, and we both had been active in Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition campaign two years earlier—my sister more than I. Back then we thought the rainbow coalitions we were building had the power to...

  5. INTRODUCTION Revolutionary Dreaming and New Dawns
    (pp. 7-38)
    Diane C. Fujino

    In 1989, fred ho faced a moment of crisis. He had been working closely, intensively with fellow musicians to develop an Asian American jazz movement for several years. But the revolutionary political organization that had been his home for more than a decade was growing increasingly moderate ideologically and requiring its artists to create “accessible” works (meaning, to Ho, “tailing the familiar and conventional”).¹ The decision was not entirely his—the group ejected him—but it was his choice to publicly oppose the political and aesthetic direction of the organization. This left him isolated (organizationally, socially, and personally), abandoned by...


    • From Banana to Third World Marxist
      (pp. 41-45)

      My early childhood memories begin at around the age of three. The second experience in life that I can remember was my first pain with white racism. At a preschool program, I remember my sandbox being segregated, how the white schoolteacher (at that time, white, black or Asian/yellow had no meaning) deliberately told the other kids (all white) not to play with me. But the feelings of isolation and avoidance by the other kids, and the pain I felt from this one particular teacher for singling me out, would remain with me for the rest of my life.

      Around the...

    • Beyond Asian American Jazz: My Musical and Political Changes in the Asian American Movement
      (pp. 46-63)

      I have been a professional baritone saxophonist, composer/arranger, bandleader, writer, activist and (more recently) producer in New York City for almost two decades. Some regard me as “successful” since I am able to make a living solely from my music, have paid off my mortgage to a great duplex loft at the age of thirty-seven, have earned several awards¹ and manage to somehow get all my opera and music/theater works produced (primarily through my own resources). I consider my “success” not in mainstream bourgeois terms of “fame and fortune” but in the fact that I have been able to unite...

    • Interview with Chris Mitchell
      (pp. 64-88)

      Fred ho: That was a piece entitledAll Power to the People! The Black Panther Suite, which we performed with my Afro Asian Music Ensemble in August 1999 at the Walker Art Center. That title was actually taken from a slogan raised by one of the founders of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, Huey P. Newton, as a way to popularize the concept of socialism. So, “All Power to the People” became a kind of anthemic slogan for that whole period of time, and continues to be one, in terms of the people taking control of everything.

      Radical radio:...


    • What Makes “Jazz” the Revolutionary Music of the Twentieth Century, and Will It Be Revolutionary for the Twenty-first Century?
      (pp. 91-103)

      I do not use the term “jazz,”¹ as I do not use such terms asNegro, Oriental, orHispanic. Oppressed peoples suffer when their history, identity, and culture are defined, (mis)represented, and explicated by our oppressors. The struggle to redefine and reimage our existence involves the struggle to reject the stereotyping, distortions, and devaluation embodied in the classifications of conquerors and racists. The struggle over how to describe past and present reality is the struggle to change reality, and the continued usage of the term “jazz” persists in marginalizing, obfuscating, and denying the fact that this music is quintessentially American...

    • Musical Borrowings, Exchanges, and Fusions: New/Experimental Genres
      (pp. 104-112)

      Since the middle of the twentieth century, the human community has become, as Marshall McLuhan phrased it, “a global village.” Cartographers have mapped every proverbial corner of the earth; technology—expanding at a phenomenal rate—through mass communication and mass transportation, has shortened distances to literally the push of a button and made physical travel possible within hours; achievements in the aerospace field have made it possible to even photograph the planet from space; two world wars have occurred; international political, economic, legal and cultural bodies have emerged; and every facet of human existence has become increasingly interconnected and interdependent...

    • Kreolization and the Hybridity of Resistance vs. Cultural Imperialism
      (pp. 113-120)

      Notions of cultural purity are as spurious and odious as notions of “racial” purity. The ideological and social construct of “race” arose with the colonization of the “dark” peoples of Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Americas by the “white” people of Western Europe as a pseudoscientific rationalization for the domination by a small portion of the world over the rest. Conquest, invasion, genocide, and exploitation undoubtedly did not begin with European colonial expansion and capitalism. Nor was Western Europe a sociopolitical-cultural monolith. Aggressive competition and rivalry between nation-states led to the reconfiguration of colonial power and extension, replacing...

    • Highlights in the History of “Jazz” Not Covered by Ken Burns: A Request from Ishmael Reed
      (pp. 121-128)

      In the spring of 2001, I met Ishmael Reed in Oakland, California, for lunch to discuss his writing an article for the anthologyAfro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections between African Americans and Asian Americans, which I was working on with Professor Bill Mullen, then of the University of Texas–San Antonio. Ishmael agreed to write something, but in return asked that I send to him “ten important dates left out by Ken Burns in his documentary,Jazz.” I agreed, eager to cite what I believe to be significant dates to the confluence of music and liberation politics in...

    • The Damned Don’t Cry: The Life and Music of Calvin Massey
      (pp. 129-150)

      African american music was Cal Massey’s life. He gave so much of his life to the music of his people—a music filled with their cries of suffering and irrepressible spirit of struggle for freedom.

      I never met Cal Massey, never heard him perform live, but I was introduced to Mr. Massey’s music through his compositions performed and recorded primarily by Archie Shepp. Titles such as “Hey, Goddamn It, Things Have Got to Change!,” “The Damned Don’t Cry,” and “The Cry of My People” spoke directly to a consciousness of oppression and a politics of liberation. These pieces were instrumental...

    • How to Sell but Not Sell Out: Personal Lessons from Making a Career as a Subversive and Radical Performing Artist
      (pp. 151-154)

      When people ask me, How long have you been playing the saxophone? I tell them, As long as I’ve been in the struggle. When activists ask me, How long have you been in the movement? I tell them, As long as I’ve been playing the saxophone. Music is not just my service or contribution, it is not just my profession, it is not just my art: it is my revolutionary life work.

      As performing artists, we need to learn more than the craft and tradition of our particular disciplines. We need to learn the business of thriving as professional subversive...

    • Big Red Media, Inc., a Composer/Musician–Driven Production Company: Doing It Yourself
      (pp. 155-158)

      The mission of my newly formed production company, Big Red Media Inc., is “to create and produce new radical and revolutionary expressions in all media: audio, performance, print, visual, cyber.” I formed the company after recognizing two serious realities both for myself specifically and also for independent-minded artists in general.

      First, recent New York State laws now require that I legally become an employer and that all artists who work for me are employees. Henceforth, I am required to make statutory deductions, pay workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, file quarterly taxes, and so on. Since I am a composer/bandleader/producer, I needed...


    • An Asian American Tribute to the Black Arts Movement
      (pp. 161-210)

      I came of age in the early 1970s, at the tail end of what Amiri Baraka calls “the Roaring Sixties.” By 1970, I had entered my teens and my “identity” awakening began. As I have discussed in many previous articles, the black experience catalyzed my own self-awareness as a Chinese/Asian American. I came to identify with the black struggle in drawing parallels with my personal struggle for self-awareness and identity and for the struggle of Asian/yellow peoples as a whole in U.S. society to end racism, injustice, and inequality and to achieve self-respect, dignity, and liberation.

      Even as a teenager,...

    • Asian American Music and Empowerment: Is There Such a Thing as “Asian American Jazz”?
      (pp. 211-217)

      Until recently, the music of Asian Americans has been two virtually divergent streams: a primarily traditional, immigrant musical culture on the one hand and, on the other, a primarily Western music played by musicians who happen to be Asian American.

      The musicians involved with either stream have had little or no contact with each other and often a divisive attitude has existed between the two—similar in many ways to the division within the Asian American communities between the American-born and the immigrant (thejook singvs.jook koksyndrome).

      The immigrant musical culture is a rich one for the...

    • Interview with Amy Ling
      (pp. 218-228)

      Fred ho: My music is a synthesis of African American musical influences with Asian folk musical elements, first explored when I was an activist in Boston’s Chinatown in the late 1970s–early 1980s. I wanted to pursue artistic/aesthetic forms that werenotEurocentric.

      As a teenager, the Black Revolution of the late 1960s, early 1970s inspired my own awakening in terms of cultural identity and political and cultural consciousness. I immediately plunged into the most radical politics and music/literature of the day: Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, Archie Shepp, Amiri Baraka and the Black Arts Movement, Sonia Sanchez, and so...

    • A Voice Is a Voice, but What Is It Saying?
      (pp. 229-239)
      Arthur Song

      Professor elaine kim’sAsian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Contextis an important pioneering volume of Asian American literary criticism and analysis. Written in a flowing and highly readable style, it is the first and only major study of its kind and offers much detail, including an extensive bibliography and very useful footnotes. There is an abundance of documentation with ample usage of a good selection of quotations and excerpts from many examples of Asian American poetry, short stories, and novels (although theater is not dealt with).

      The wealth of detail and documentation in the...

    • Where Is the Asian American Love?
      (pp. 240-246)

      Romance. Falling in love—the joys and ecstasies. Falling out of love—the hurt of broken hearts. Love is an essential feature of the human experience. Daryl Chin, a writer who often does articles for Asian CineVision, decries what he views as Asian American filmmakers and festivals preoccupied with Asian American themes and subjects (i.e., “immigration . . . laundries, piecework at factories, restaurants . . .”) to the exclusion of ostensibly broader subjects such as “voyeurism . . . auto-eroticism,” to cite examples he raises. I would go beyond Daryl’s critique and argue that Asian American filmmakers, along with...

    • Bamboo That Snaps Back! Resistance and Revolution in Asian Pacific American Working-Class and Left-Wing Expressive Culture
      (pp. 247-269)

      Asian pacific americans (APAs) have been metaphorically compared to bamboo, a social metaphor for a U.S. minority group that pliantly bends to adversity. The bamboo metaphor is meant to praise APAs (a so-called positive stereotype) for having the qualities of being quiet and hardworking, putting up with hardship and oppression with stoicism and patience. As an example, among Japanese Americans there is an expression of resignation, of fatalistic acceptance of adversity and suffering, “shikata ga nai” (in Japanese, literally, “it can’t be helped” or “it must be done”). Japanese Americans are also cited as having “gamen” (to put up, or...

    • Tomoe Tana: Keeping Alive Japanese American Tanka
      (pp. 270-273)

      At age seventy-four, Tomoe Tana is an energetic trailblazer in promoting an understanding and practice of tanka poetry in America. Since 1938, a half-century ago when she arrived in the United States, this Issei woman has written numerous tankas; been active in several tanka clubs among various cities in the United States; coauthored the first book featuring English translations of Japanese American tankas (Sounds from the Unknown, 1963); earned her master’s degree from San Jose State University at the age of seventy-two with a pioneering dissertation, “The History of Japanese Tanka Poetry in America”; and compiled, edited, and self-published another...

    • Hole Hole Bushi: Cultural/Musical Resistance by Japanese Women Plantation Workers in Early Twentieth-Century Hawaii
      (pp. 274-280)
      Susan Asai

      During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, large numbers of Japanese immigrant laborers arrived in Hawaii to work on the growing sugar plantations. They came from the poorer, southern regions of Japan to escape crushing poverty, suffocating village life, and to find their dreams for a better life. Many of the laborers were recruited by very active labor contractors seeking to fill the demand for workers.

      These Japanese immigrant laborers brought to Hawaii a rich tradition of folk culture and peasant song forms, including the popularbushi. However, as the people were transformed from peasant farmers and fishing people...


    • The Inspiration of Mao and the Chinese Revolution on the Black Liberation Movement and the Asian Movement on the East Coast
      (pp. 283-292)

      The chinese revolution led by the Chinese Communist Party and Mao Zedong has been a great source of inspiration and example to Third World peoples both internationally and within the United States. The Chinese Revolution of 1949 established the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a socialist government among one-fifth of the world’s population, a population that is “nonwhite.”

      The Chinese Revolution differed greatly from the Bolshevik Revolution that established the Soviet Union.

      As a Third World country, China had a history of colonial penetration and domination at the hands of U.S., Western European, and Japanese imperialism. China was never...

    • Notes on the National Question: Oppressed Nations and Liberation Struggles within the U.S.A.
      (pp. 293-349)

      This essay will seek to address four general topics: What is the National Question(s) and why is it important to the U.S. socialist revolution? What have been incorrect positions and distortions that liquidate the National Question(s) in the United States? What can we propose as a correct understanding of the National Question in theory and in practice? and an analysis and discussion of specific National Questions in the United States.

      I have chosen to enumerate the notes or points I will make in order to convey that this essay is a work in progress and to welcome direct debate and...

    • Matriarchy: The First and Final Communism
      (pp. 350-377)

      I am not an anthropologist, archaeologist, or any specialist in antiquity and early human social history and development. Therefore, my arguments in this presentation will be primarily theoretical and political, as an artist-activist, which is what I am, to analyze the questions of why womyn are oppressed, and what should be done to liberate more than half of humanity as part of liberating all of humanity. While I will draw upon scientific research and analyses made by historians and cultural anthropologists, my argument is not primarily made on the basis of being “scientific,” or necessarily provable, but from a combination...

    • Momentum for Change: Lessons for the East Coast Asian Student Movement
      (pp. 378-391)

      Thank you for this honor of presenting the keynote address at your tenth anniversary conference. Ten years ago, while a junior at Harvard, I participated in the founding conference of the ECASU on April Fool’s weekend, 1978. A historic step was made as close to three hundred students from more than two dozen campuses united and organized themselves to build an Asian student movement that would advance our struggle for respect and equality in this society. Like you, we did all-nighters to do outreach, plan housing, get funding, plan the workshops, and struggle with the direction of this network.


    • Flags, Falsehoods, and Fascism: As Long As Imperialism Exists, Chickens Will Come Home to Roost!
      (pp. 392-402)

      The events of September 11, 2001, involved an attack on two mighty symbols of American imperialism: the World Trade Center in New York City, symbolizing primarily the strength of U.S. finance capital, and the Pentagon, the headquarters of U.S. military command. A third attack was interrupted and its intended target remains unknown. A great number of civilian lives and small businesses were lost and destroyed in the New York attack, the tragic and unfortunate consequence of what has been branded “terrorism.” Leftists can expect the U.S. corporate media and ruling-class leaders to whip up jingoism, patriotism, national chauvinism, and support...

  10. AFTERWORD Report from the Front Lines: A Dialectics of the Future
    (pp. 403-407)
    Bill V. Mullen

    On august 4, 2006, Fred Ho was diagnosed with a “sporadic case of adenocarcinoma of the colon,” more commonly known as colon cancer. Fred was in typically superb health at the time of his diagnosis. He has lived a life free of cigarettes, alcohol, and fatty foods, disciplined by years of martial arts exercise, ocean swimming, hiking, and rigorous, body-shaking practice on his baritone saxophone. Since the day of his diagnosis, friends, lovers, family, comrades, and a legion of concerned people have refracted back onto Fred the love, joy, and will to live and fight that has marked every day...

    (pp. 408-409)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 410-427)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 428-428)
  14. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 429-436)