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I teach and advise college students who are crafting and revising techniques for creating social change through the arts. The conversations we have in the classroom and in my office week after week inspire and challenge me. I see so much of myself in my students and as a result find myself asking them the questions about cultural practice that I wish someone had asked me more than a decade ago. I feel blessed to be able to share my journey with them. This series of posts is dedicated to culture weavers now and future. This is for you, Young Culture. Keep Rockin’. -P.A

Dear Young C

Yes, sometimes college sucks. I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. I mean, how could I? I hated undergrad so much I was a chronic drop out who took seven years to finish my degree. I know the pain of sitting in classes when you’d rather be out in the world putting your creative passions into action. I feel you when you say, what’s the point, I’m already doing what I want to be doing now. I was organizing national cultural campaigns at 22 and running a national organization at 24. I had tons of creativity, energy, and passion. People thought I was really smart and trusted me to lead so why did I need a college degree? I discovered a few things stepping into leadership so young. First, that people admire and celebrate young leaders but often don’t always offer the critical feedback they need to grow into that leadership. We rise so quickly that we don’t always learn the practical skills needed to be adaptable and resilient when inevitable changes and failures send us falling. Second, after you’ve burnt out from learning by trial and error you can quickly find yourself starting over from the ground level and that can feel like a long fall down but it’s really just an important part of the journey. But no one teaches us to see failure as progress or process.

Just as I was beginning to identify too heavily with my early professional failures, I went back to school. School became a lifeline and an opportunity to reflect on what I learned. Later by the time I went to grad school, I understood that my intuitive sense of what works simply wasn’t enough, that I needed strong theory to back up my action. I suddenly understood what Freire calls praxis and I wanted to be capable of that in my life and work. So I sat down in the classroom and I got it done. I wanted to have more choices for what I might create in the future. It wasn’t the degree that made that possible but it was the ability to engage in critical dialogue-listening and collaborating with others, the access to literature that I still call upon to articulate my vision, and meeting professors, students, and colleagues that continue to be collaborators and mentors. The degree is nice too. When I need a break from the entrepreneurial hustle that all artists and cultural workers know, when I want to be able to just count on a pay check to administer a program or teach, It’s nice to know that I can dust off my resume with those two degrees on it and be a competitive candidate for a job. That might not be what you want now but give your future self a few more options.

Young Culture, the thrill of the artistic pursuit will never leave you. Not even while you take time out to fulfill your pre-modern classics requirement. Get. It. Done. Now. You got a lot of legacy to build and this is just one short stop on your journey.


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Lyrical Liberation: Voices Raised Against Mass Criminalization

On Monday, November 24th Artists, Activists, and Educators unit to liberate hearts and minds and raise our voices against the mass criminalization and incarceration of our people.


Marlon Peterson , writer and activist calling on the legacy of Malcolm X in his keynote talk: “What Would El Hajj Malik Shabazz Say About Mass Incarceration…”

Hasan Salaam, whose new joint “Jericho” featuring Immortal Technique and Hezekiah is chanting down the police state.

OSHUN, Hip Hop Duo using their music to inspire liberation and empower women and girls.

Sign-up at to get on the Freedom Mic and speak out on against mass criminalization of people of color. 


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America…A Union?

*Excerpted from a longer work entitled, “Who Taught You How to Love?”. Written during this rage filled summer of 2014.

The politics of love:

blue veins opening to reveal

Bleeding red dessent.

Child, your rhythm is a bludgeoning.

And so I watch you,

Gleefully beating out your message on stolen drums.

I love you like a mother

who has no safe harbor to hold you upon.

I love you like the child

having only known violence

claws instead of grasping

I do not know how to be gentle with myself

And so I cannot be gentle with you, America.

Nor do I want to.

You, who built your crumbling fortress walls with

blueprints stapled to the chests of those Africans

Who labored and contracted and birthed

Though they would never find rest

On the earth they spilled blood on.

Peeled back the angry soil

soothing the bitter earth

To plant your seeds

To grow your too rich meals

To cultivate your grand addiction-

Sweet with empty release.

Sweet sugar baby,

You are a fleeting joy.

Still we be ready to die for you:

A land where freedom wafts through you

Quick as wet cotton candy

Quick as crack cocaine

Quick as innocent flesh

meeting molesting greed

With only the hope of return.

Reality, a kicked in door.

A dream that will never come.

A dream that wakes you

in the night like a bomb.

Wakes you like the blasts on

Bloody Sunday

Black Wall Street

Detroit in ‘67

LA in ‘92

When Martin was killed

When Malcolm was killed

When Medgar was killed

Blast blast blast

like the jailhouse doors

that slam shut behind




Blast blast blast

Like the bullets into




Wakes the like the broken bones

Of young bodies in Rikers Island

Wakes like bomb dropped on Osage avenue

like the bomb dropped on Attica!

Can you hear me above the crackling echo?

Probably not

Erasure is threaded into the fabric of your flag

You wave it seductively.

And I want to love you,

Baby, I want to love you

But it’s hard to see your beauty

above the gas, the ruptured flesh, the flames.

I cannot see your beauty for the blood in my eye,

the explosions in my chest,

the mercy you fail to spare.

So for now, my Love wears combat boots

leveling a machete and a shovel

To excavate the deep divides you form at your core.

I hope I uncover truth and treasure.

With a sharpened edge I rip from root

All that strangles your heart

leaving you numb with narcissistic fantasies

absorbed in your own glorious details.

I will find you.

I will find, who you can be

And maybe then

we can talk about

A union.

Copyright Piper Anderson 2014

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