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Saul Williams (Part Two)

By October 30, 2019January 22nd, 2020Podcast

This episode features part two of host Lola Wright’s conversation with Saul Williams.

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For more information on Bodhi Center, please visit us at bodhicenter.org.

For more information on Lola Wright, please visit her at lolawright.com.

Saul Williams has traveled the world as an artist, activist, and provocateur of deeper and more comprehensive thought patterns. Much of Saul’s music is based on political activism and protest, but in this conversation he describes a project that stretched beyond his usual areas of focus. He says, “I decided to work on this album called Volcanic Sunlight where I just wanted to acknowledge that there were a lot of other emotions flowing through me beyond this dissection of race and class… and I just wanted to express the love that I feel, because in fact everything that I’ve ever said has come out of love.”  

They also discuss an increase of Christianity in hip hop. Saul says, “It’s great to have your faith and… what moves you, that’s wonderful. But when I think of that projected, when our military is in predominantly Islamic countries firing weapons and operating on Christian principles out loud, you know? Conflating terrorism and Islam, and rappers are like ‘my God is the greatest God’… from America, I’m like, ‘okay, are you making specifically music for the soldiers to sing along to so they can feel comfortable as they shoot these black and brown kids around the world?’”

They also discuss some of the repercussions of conservative Christianity’s exportation to other countries, including efforts to promote an anti-gay law in Uganda. The Netflix series The Family also documents and explores this gross practice in America’s recent past.

Lola and Saul discuss the upcoming presidential election, and how the 2016 election inspired Lola to begin the project Normal white people. “Using real and untold American history, current events and self-reflection, participants are committed to uncovering personal biases, discovering the changes necessary within the participant, and creating a personal path of inspired action that moves the evolutionary impulse of humanity toward a loving and just global society.” 

Saul makes an impassioned argument for Americans to learn the true, untold history of the country and its founding. One source we recommend for further reading is Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

For more information on Bodhi Center, please visit us at bodhicenter.org.

For more information on Lola Wright, please visit her at lolawright.com.

This “talk” is electronically transcribed. Please excuse any errors or omissions.

Lola Wright: You are more than this meat suit! A feeling lasts 90 seconds. A multiracial, intergenerational, queer, affirming, non religious, pro woman community in the most segregated city in America, Chicago.

Lola Wright: Hello. Welcome to, And this is Bodhi. I’m your host Lola Wright. If you have not already listened to our inaugural episode of this podcast, please do that. We kicked this podcast off with the brilliant mystic, poet, musician, activist Saul Williams. This is part two of that conversation. If you don’t already know what Bodhi is, check us out. Bodhi Center is based in Chicago. We serve Chicagoans and people around the world in shifting out of fear based thought patterns into higher states of creativity, aliveness, freedom, and joy so that you and I can move on the planet with a greater sense of peace and contribution.

Lola Wright: As always, expect expletives, expect strong language. When you’re in the midst of Saul Williams, don’t let it take you out if that’s something that rubs you the wrong way. Listen for the meat. There is a lot of good, juicy stuff in this conversation. We explore his movement out of Christianity, the significant impact of hip hop on his spiritual awakening. I loved every moment of being with this human. I trust you will too.

Lola Wright: So in one of your, I think it was your original piece that I don’t think it debuted in slam, but you have a line in there that says –

Saul Williams: Interplanetary truth is androgynous? Which one?

Lola Wright: No, but that’s a great line.

Saul Williams: Oh, yeah that’s not in slam.

Lola Wright: No, it was actually something about like I look to God, but then I understood that like I could talk to God because I could talk to me or something like that.

Saul Williams: Oh! Yeah, yeah yeah yeah. I know God personally. In fact he lets me call him me.

Lola Wright: Yes. And so how did that awareness develop? And I’m imagining that you have encountered people perhaps from more traditional backgrounds that would say that’s heretical.

Saul Williams: Of course. Well, I mean I grew up in New York in the eighties and nineties so I didn’t just grow up in the church. I grew up around Five Percenters so, you know, like I grew up around a lot of people who’d be like, yo, what’s up God?

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: So there was always this operating principle and explanation. I grew up around a lot of Rastas as well, you know, so I had a lot of operating systems running at the same time, or I was basically exposed to these varying relationships to the presence of, of God. And then there was that moment like I mentioned from, you know, my freshman year of college, where I felt the freedom to explore and read and meditate and all this stuff. So how did I arrive at that statement? When I first started writing poetry and Amethyst Rocks is that poem and it’s one of the earliest poems that I wrote.

Saul Williams: All of those poems came out of meditation. All of those poems came out of the beginning of my sitting practice for meditation, which had to do a lot with breathing and, and, and, and visualizing and, and, but I don’t want to make it really esoteric. Where did that come from? Um, it’s just an understanding. It’s an understanding that’s available. That was really clear. As soon as I stepped out of the ideological sort of structuring that I was raised in, it’s just something that became clear that this principal was inside of all of us.

Lola Wright: It’s interesting because A Tribe Called Quest dropped Midnight Marauders in 1993, I was 13, and I always said that that was like one of my first spiritual awakenings. Like there was something that my soul felt –

Saul Williams: Yeah.

Lola Wright: – in that album and in that era, and I’m like, I so do not want to be one of those people’s like in that era of hip hop, you know?

Saul Williams: Yeah, yeah –

Lola Wright: But –

Saul Williams: Yeah.

Lola Wright: – in that era of hip hop, there was a devotion to liberation frameworks –

Saul Williams: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: – that I don’t hear in the same way today. And specifically I’ll just say, given the fact that we’re sitting in Chicago, what’s fascinating to me about Chicago, given that it is the home of the Nation of Islam, that most of the artists that come out of here are very Christianized.

Saul Williams: Yeah it’s problematic.

Lola Wright: Yeah.

Saul Williams: Very, very, very problematic. But um –

Lola Wright: Can you say why you say it with that –

Saul Williams: Sure.

Lola Wright: – clarity?

Saul Williams: Let me just go back to one thing you said because I want to point out that like, cause you point out my lyric, which is like a, I know God personally. In fact he lets me call him me, I be one with rain and stars and things with dancing feet and watermelon rings. Yes. But I grew up on Rakim who maybe in 89 or 1990 was like, I’m God, G is the seventh letter made.

Lola Wright: Yes.

Saul Williams: That’s Follow the Leaders, that song. Uh, KRS-One. There’s tons of rappers that I heard reference themselves as God –

Lola Wright: Yeah.

Saul Williams: – way before I put it in a poem.

Lola Wright: Yes, of course.

Saul Williams: You know what I’m saying? Yeah. And so, and it wasn’t just that I heard it in songs like I was there for like a lot of the light born ciphers and what have you amongst the Five Percenters and all this stuff. All this stuff is super interesting to me and most of these peeps were my peeps growing up. And so there were a lot of, uh, you know, a lot of Dr. York, there was a lot of crazy stuff in the streets in New York talking about spirituality and our relationship to our ancestors, –

Lola Wright: Yes.

Saul Williams: – our relationship to God. And I was pulling from all of that stuff and, and being fed by a lot of it, you know, and also trying to like discern between like the, the reactionary politic –

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: – and the stuff that felt truly connected to a guiding principle.

Lola Wright: I think that is a massive distinction right there because I think that your entire career, from what I can tell, has been oriented on principle as opposed to reaction or trend. Right?

Saul Williams: No. Yeah.

Lola Wright: And if I look at –

Saul Williams: I challenged myself occasionally and look back and go, shit, was I just reacting?

Lola Wright: Well, yeah. I mean I get that, but we all sort of were on this evolutionary trajectory and, –

Saul Williams: Mm hmm, yeah.

Lola Wright: – but it’s like any time over the last 25 years, you could have said, okay, this is exhausting carrying this mantle.

Saul Williams: But I have, it’s not that it was exhausting carrying the mantle. At times, I’ve been like, I have to write from a different place.

Lola Wright: Right.

Saul Williams: So I have an album called Volcanic Sunlight –

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: – which I recorded after I did Niggy Tardust. And after Niggy Tardust looking back at my, I mean, the first word on my first album is n***a.

Lola Wright: Mm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: Um, you know what im saying like [laughter], and then, you know, leading up to Niggy Tardust I was like, okay, whew. And so I decided to work on this album called Volcanic Sunlight where I just wanted to acknowledge that there are a lot of other emotions flowing through me –

Lola Wright: Yes.

Saul Williams: – beyond this dissection of race and class and you know, all this stuff. And I just wanted to express the love that I feel because in fact everything I’ve ever said is come out of love.

Lola Wright: Well, I totally feel that.

Saul Williams: Yeah, I know that it’s, it is felt, but I wanted to take the time to acknowledge that.

Lola Wright: Be excplicit.

Lola Wright: And so volcanic sunlight is very much about that.
Music: [Volcanic Sunlight plays]

Saul Williams: And it’s the last album I did before I delved into the MartyrLoserKing project which puts me, you know, back on my bullshit.

Lola Wright: [laughter].

Saul Williams: [laughter] And uh, and so after that. Uh, let me go to your other question. Right? Which was what?

Lola Wright: The Christianized commercialize capitalized –

Saul Williams: Yeah. That said that it was problematic.

Lola Wright: – Chicago, hip hop crew.

Saul Williams: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Um, I will preface this by saying that I love people. I love artistry. I love artists and I love the energy that we put into our work and what have you. I find it crippling to our growth at times. When I hear rappers, it’s great to have your faith and what have you and what moves you. That’s wonderful. But when I think of that projected, when our military is in predominantly Islamic countries firing weapons and operating on Christian principles out loud –

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: you know, conflating terrorism and Islam and rappers are like, my God is the greatest God or Jesus is the dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah from America.

Saul Williams: I’m like, okay, are you making specifically music for the soldiers to sing along to so they can feel comfortable as they shoot these black and brown kids around the world are, are you aware of the fact that as our country is projecting this Christian fundamentalists ideology. Nonsensical because it has nothing to do with Jesus.

Lola Wright: That’s right.

Saul Williams: I said, Christian, that has nothing to do with Jesus. It just has to do with this idea of, of this God fearing like all this bullshit that these men in rooms have decided is, you know, like this Christian ideology that will be how we’ll operate and it’s hard to escape those boxes. You can do one to others –

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: – without waving your Bible.

Lola Wright: That’s right.

Saul Williams: You know, you can do that. You know, and you should know that the inventor of the idea of doing unto others the great simplifier who said, who made it really simple and concise like, Oh, okay, here’s a guiding principle. Just treat people the way you want to be treated. You can do that.

Saul Williams: I mean, when I came home from school, once again at seven or eight years old, and Juri Mazola was probably the kindest girl in my elementary school who was, you know, sharing her snack and helping kids with their homework during lunch and dah, dah, dah. And like helping people who didn’t finish their assignments before class and dah, dah, dah and Juri Mazola was Jewish. And I remember coming home and being like, so dad, the nicest girl in my school is this Jewish girl named Juri Mazola, and I mean like she has the most Christ like principals I’ve ever seen in a motherfucker.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: Like it’s crazy. Now she’s born into a Jewish household is she going to hell –

Lola Wright: Right!

Saul Williams: – and not until she accepts the Lord Jesus Christ as her savior.

Lola Wright: [laughter].

Saul Williams: That’s where I was like seven or eight years old, the first time I was like, I don’t have the words –

Lola Wright: Yes!

Saul Williams: – but I know that’s bullshit.

Lola Wright: Yes!

Saul Williams: I know that’s bullshit. I know this is where you fucked up in your interpretation of the shit that your practicing. Because there was no way that this motherfucker said that. So 10 years later, I find words and the freedom to explore that. But I was thinking about it all along and then I cut to the modern time at these, these rappers and, and, and hear this expression of this love of Christianity through the music. And I’m like, you know, its relationship to colonialism for that to remain unquestioned, one. I mean, let’s not act like the Catholic church is not the biggest like land owner on the fucking planet. I mean, like their fucking real estate game is so real.

Lola Wright: I was just in Rome like –

Saul Williams: Hello? You don’t have to be in Rome. They own every fucking Catholic church on this planet and every country, what are you talking about? You know what I’m saying?

Lola Wright: This is Chicago, they’re all over the place.

Saul Williams: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They’re all over the place, all over the place. And they’re right now in South America and in Africa because they not getting as much, you know, leverage in Europe and America, you know? And so they’re spreading this shit. And then this, these motherfuckers who were like, no, no, no, no condoms. Come on!

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: And so much more and so much more and so much hypocrisy. So much hypocrisy.

Lola Wright: So Bodhi is involved, do you know Bishop Yvette Flunder is?

Saul Williams: I’ve heard the name.

Lola Wright: So she’s the founder of a body of work called The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries. And she basically comes out of the Pentecostal Church and is a same gender loving woman and you know, founded this body of work to basically be a refuge for queer black people, strong trans community that could, could retain their faith traditions and be fully self expressed. It’s so, it’s amazing like to go to her gatherings, but one of the things, they’re very, very involved in the continent of Africa because the evangelical Christian movement is so strong there for the very reasons you’re talking –

Saul Williams: Yeah, yeah yeah. It’s super strong, super strong.

Lola Wright: – because they’re losing footing in the United States.

Saul Williams: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. I’ve seen it. No, I’ve seen it firsthand. I mean like it’s the evangelical American community that has gone to places like Uganda and said that our aid that we want to give you, we have millions of dollars that we’d like to give you, but it’s contingent on the fact that we’d love for you to pass this anti gay law because we can’t get it passed in, in our own country and we want to see how it operates here.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: And so yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. This is the bullshit that has been killing us for years.

Lola Wright: So how do you –

Saul Williams: Get rid of the church is how the fuck I do it. So what I want to say [laughter] –

Lola Wright: I’m with you.

Saul Williams: The same way that like I remember, you know, hearing a lot of like capitalist sentiment in popular hip hop and being like, that’s a little negligent.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: This idea that black capitalism is gonna be a saving grace is negligent.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: And I understand that we all have a lot of reading to do and a lot to think about and what have you. But no, black capitalism is just capitalism. And if you have any questions about that, look at the continent of Africa. You don’t think there’s a bunch of millionaires and billionaires there who have been having money and you still see corruption and government and the way that shit does not trickle down and what have you like come on. In that same way that I thought the expression of capitalism through music is negligent, so is the expression of Christianity through music especially, you know like what Kanye and Rhymefest have Jesus walks in 2004, 2003. It’s the same time that we went to war with Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s the same exact time that this Christian war is going on. And then the biggest song in America is Jesus walks. Nobody else caught that. You fucking kidding me.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: The soldiers are fucking marching to that shit. I’m like, no, that will be the last fucking thing you’ll hear come out of my mouth to try to get these soldiers engaged. Singing this song that’s in their fucking, you know [inaudible].

Lola Wright: So when you think about that though, like where I can go is I can get very cynical and discouraged because this past Sunday there was something here called Sunday Service.

Saul Williams: Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah.

Lola Wright: And there were a lot of Chicagoans.

Saul Williams: Yeah, it’s a problem! No, it’s even a problem in my family. It’s a problem! I mean don’t get me wrong, like you said, we started by saying what the black church was.

Lola Wright: Right.

Saul Williams: And so the black church and its relationship, the black American church and its relationship to music is enough to make anybody go, no, I’m still going to church. And if you doubt that, go back to what you were saying a few minutes ago about the evangelical shit on the continent –

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: – and listen to them sing, in the churches, cause the great music that’s happening on the continent, and you know it’s the root of a lot of great music. It ain’t happening in the mother fucking churches.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: In the churches, it’ll sound like, “Oh shit, this thing and this little light of mine.” It’ll sound so out of place and out of character. You’ll be like, some of it is awesome, right? I heard a [laughter], I heard this in Rwanda. I was passing by a church on a Sunday and I heard the beginnings of Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry.

Lola Wright: Hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: And I was like, Holy shit, they’re singing this in church. And I got close up and they were singing, “No, Jesus, no life.”

Lola Wright: Wow!

Saul Williams: [laughter].

Lola Wright: Wow, I’m just trying to stay relevant.

Saul Williams: Nah, I mean it worked! I was like, alright, I could take that one. That was, that was interesting [laughs]. But overall, it’s the saddest thing in the world to me sometimes. It’s not to say that we don’t need faith and we don’t need guiding principles, that we don’t need, you know, something to help us stand straight. I believe that essentially, I’ve said it before, that religion is a wonderful crutch to help us stand upright in our understanding of our relationship to each other, to love, to earth, to pain, to suffering, um, and to the greater good. It’s a beautiful crutch to help us stand upright in our understanding of that. But also any doctor will tell you, you know, that if you’ve broken a leg or something and you’ve been operating with a crutch, at some point you have to start practicing walking without your crutches or the muscles will never develop properly.

Saul Williams: And so I just feel that we’re at that point where like if we don’t let go of these crutches, then we’re, our legs or what have you. Our ability to stand is becoming deformed and displaced by the fact that we’re still leaning on this shit. And I see people leaning, and I understand you’re experiencing a great amount of success in your life and you want to be able to be humble in that. And so you say, give it all to God.

Lola Wright: Mm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: And I understand that, I understand that. But it only takes, you know, a second of breath and contemplation to acknowledge that the way that it was taught you is just the way that it was taught to you.

Lola Wright: Yes.

Saul Williams: But you can still give it up, you know, but in a way that doesn’t contextualize it in this institutional violence. You can find a way to still give it up without necessarily giving in to the crutch of the expression and the way that we’ve been taught to express this relationship to the unseen and what have you, mainly in within the framework of Christianity. And yes, I find it problematic because there’s so many unanswered questions or just unchallenged questions. I mean, people hear this and still feel like, Oh my God, and like you don’t realize that when I challenged the institution of Christianity, it has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus.

Lola Wright: Totally get it.

Saul Williams: And that is the fucking problem.

Lola Wright: Exactly.

Saul Williams: It’s that the institution of Christianity, it has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus. And if it did, it might not even go by a fucking name. It might just be how you operate.

Lola Wright: I know that you were, you were a supporter of Bernie Sanders.

Saul Williams: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: We’re going –

Saul Williams: For 2016.

Lola Wright: For 2016. We’re going into another presidential election. I’m fascinated by the number of people that I’ve been connected to, close with for 30 years. That I would say were some of my teachers in my own awakening.

Saul Williams: Yes.

Lola Wright: That have completely given up on voting.

Saul Williams: [laughs]

Lola Wright: I feel really troubled by that.

Saul Williams: Yes.

Lola Wright: And I get it. In many of their cases, it’s a political stand.

Saul Williams: Of course. Yeah. It is a political stand whether that’s realized or not. It’s a political stand.

Lola Wright: Right, exactly. But, yeah I feel concerned about that. So I’m curious if you were to like invite someone who is consciously taking a political stand not to vote, if you were to invite them to reconsider that position, what would you say?

Saul Williams: Well, I feel like that avoids something because I don’t believe that Donald Trump is in office because of motherfuckers who did not vote.

Lola Wright: Hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: We all know that Hillary won the popular vote.

Lola Wright: Right.

Saul Williams: And we also know who pushes the democratic vote and who was always pushed. I’m talking about black women and black community and what have you. My problem is the motherfuckers who did vote. That 53% of white women. So I’m trying to find a way to get those motherfuckers not to vote [laughs]. Actually.

Lola Wright: I totally get it. I’m taking a different approach [laughs].

Saul Williams: [laughing]

Saul Williams: I’m like no, no, no. Just stay home and like wash your flag.

Lola Wright: [laughs]

Saul Williams: You know your flag is dirty and that’s not patriotic. You know the new patriotism is like you should hand-wash your flag on voting day [laughs] and don’t vote or use your flag to wash your car because your car will now glisten with American whatever. Like whatever. Like I’m trying to get those cats not to vote. It’s my own gerrymandering [laughs] I’m trying to convince.

Lola Wright: Okay, well I wish you the best of luck on that strategy [laughing].

Saul Williams: [laughs].

Lola Wright: In the meantime, um in response to that, I actually have a project that’s pretty quiet but it’s called normal white people. And –

Saul Williams: Mm [affirmative]. What is that? [laughing]

Lola Wright: It’s basically, it was basically in response to the statistics –

Saul Williams: [inaudible]

Lola Wright: Well, so there are couple premises. So one promise is that actually there are white folks out there that, you know cause I think part of the narrative right now is really trying to create this as a binary. And that in an effort to turn this into a binary, you can actually perpetuate that narrative.

Saul Williams: Right?

Lola Wright: And so part of the body of work is to say, actually there really are white folks out there that also want to contribute to –

Saul Williams: Of course!

Lola Wright: – the awakening of humanity. And what I noticed about myself was that I was sort of hiding out in communities because I didn’t want to deal with white people.

Saul Williams: Right.

Lola Wright: And that particularly in the last presidential cycle, it became statistically explicitly clear, if it had not been before, that that was completely reckless and irresponsible on my part.

Saul Williams: Right. What you’re saying is that forward thinking white people need to actually spend the time and money evangelizing in the white community.

Lola Wright: Yeah!

Saul Williams: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And get the fuck out Africa and South America and [inaudible].

Lola Wright: Yeah. And actually that, what I realized about my own self was that my own unhealed stuff with the white community, I was always too big. I was always too loud.

Saul Williams: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: There were all kinds of things that didn’t work for me where I grew up.

Saul Williams: So you felt more acceptance elsewhere?

Lola Wright: Yeah, I was, I had a context for beauty –

Saul Williams: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: – when I found the Chicago hip hop community –

Saul Williams: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: – that had never existed for me previously.

Saul Williams: Right.

Lola Wright: But what I have had to do is really untangle all of that stuff for myself.

Saul Williams: Yeah, because you’re not here to escape.

Lola Wright: Exactly!

Saul Williams: Exactly. You also, it’s your business to confront.

Lola Wright: Yeah. And if I just right off that 53% –

Saul Williams: Right.

Lola Wright: – I’m not confident that that’s going to be an effective strategy. So now I’m like, okay, I have to work with these folks.

Saul Williams: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: And I have to see them as the presence of God itself.

Saul Williams: Mm [laughs].

Lola Wright: [laughs]

Lola Wright: And see that like that is me. Like where does Donald Trump live in me? And then I gotta, you know, I gotta work with people and [inaudible]. Because someone worked with me, you know?

Saul Williams: Yeah. It’s true. We need to see that. Black Americans have been working with white people for a long time and trying to aid in the process and what have you. And it’s true that that has to be done. And if we cannot count on, because you know, we could solve this, we can nip this in the bud if we just taught proper history, the people’s history –

Lola Wright: That’s right. That’s exactly right.

Saul Williams: – in elementary, junior high schools in high schools. Like if we change our educational curriculum, you know, you spend your first year just studying indigenous studies –

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: – all about the histories of, you know, the America’s before, you know, any Europeans arrived here, you know, and find out where you are, what state the names and your state that correspond with the people that were there, all the shit that we don’t know.

Lola Wright: That’s right.

Lola Wright: But it’s always coming out out of, “Oh, I’m from Wyoming.”

Lola Wright: [laughs]

Saul Williams: And we never correlate like the truth and the history and the peoples of that land. You know, like even just in Canada, any public forum in Canada, you first have to acknowledge the rightful owners and protectors of the land where you’re standing in whatever city and whatever building and whatever venue and whatever bank, in whatever. You have to acknowledge that before you say whatever else you want to make a speech.

Lola Wright: Wow.

Saul Williams: Yeah. That’s just in Canada. Like we wouldn’t have to travel far to find different ways –

Lola Wright: Models.

Saul Williams: Yea, different models of how to do shit. That’s the law in Canada. You have to first acknowledge, you know, we are on, you know, this land first giving honor to them and dah dah, dah, dah now. And so we replaced that with, you know, the [inaudible]. “Giving honor to God who my root and my salvage.”

Lola Wright: [laughs]

Saul Williams: You know. That’s what I’m saying. It’s like you want to honor God, honor the people who stood on this land before you ever stood here. That’s how you honor God.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: That’s the thing that I would love to see happen. I mean that’s really everything. If we could change our educational system, if we can change our educational system and teach true indigenous history, true history of the enslaved Africans that came and put, you know, take out the supremacist notion and stop talking in terms of the greatness that you know, Europeans brought. Let’s talk about diseases. Let’s talk about, I mean like the germ traveled faster than the bullet.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: Right. One of the things we never like really talk about is that the time between, you know, the first explorers arriving on the North American continent and then the arrival of the pilgrims, there’s a hundred years between that time. So you have people that arrived, said, Holy shit, this is here, left. And then a hundred years later is when the pilgrims arrived.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: When the pilgrims arrived, they’re like, we had writings that said that there were hundreds and thousands of people here. Where are they?

Lola Wright: Mm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: The germs from that first arrival over the course of a hundred years may have already killed like 75% of the population.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: So that people are arriving in places that seem like, Oh, this was a village or this is, why is it empty? There’s a whole history that were not even fucking taught!

Lola Wright: That’s right.

Saul Williams: We need to know this!

Lola Wright: Yes.

Saul Williams: Then we can fucking celebrate American history. Then we can have some fucking pride in the right thing.

Lola Wright: Yeah.

Saul Williams: Building up to, okay, now, then they decided they wanted to leave England and not be a part of that. Okay. But there’s a bunch of shit before that.

Lola Wright: I think what’s also interesting about your perspective, as I heard you say recently, like America was originally like a fresh idea.

Saul Williams: Yeah!

Lola Wright: So I think that the point is –

Saul Williams: Wait, let’s be clear, there could be something fresh in people arriving someplace acknowledging the people that were there and the people being welcoming and saying, yes, you’re welcome to be here. You know, participate in what we’re doing and ba ba ba ba ba. So there’s nothing fresh in genocide.

Lola Wright: Of course.

Saul Williams: You know, except for the blood.

Lola Wright: Yes, yes, yes. But I think sometimes people create this divide like, Oh, so all you want to do is now go way back over the last 400 years with [inaudible]. It’s like all of this can be true. All of this can coexist. We can acknowledge what actually happened here.

Saul Williams: This is how we build greatness.

Lola Wright: That’s exactly right.

Saul Williams: It’s through acknowledging what actually happened that we’re able to create models that sustain.

Lola Wright: That’s right.

Lola Wright: You know, like we’re talking about all this environmental shit. Like that’s the new thing. Like okay, Greta Thunberg is here and all that. What the fuck do you think the indigenous community has been saying from the jump? Thank you for finally deciding to listen to the motherfuckers that were telling you this from the jump.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: Don’t act like you invented this shit. You invented waste. That’s it. There was no waste on the continent of Africa before. This sounds like some crazy generalization, but there was no waste on the continent of Africa before a certain time period post independence when the importation of foreign goods made of plastic and and some of the aid or what have you was contingent on the acceptance of just plastic into some of these countries and suddenly there was waste that didn’t make sense and the environment anymore cause everything else like you know they, there was a use for everything. There was composting, there was all this stuff, there was no waste.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: So [inaudible].

Lola Wright: All right, well so I know you have like 97 other places to be, but I have one final question.

Saul Williams: Yeah.

Lola Wright: How do you be with all of that and still maintain any degree of optimism, your spiritual center, your inner peace?

Saul Williams: Overall, people are beautiful. I have a lot of patience with people. I like people. I really like people. I enjoy conversations, when I want them. [laughs]

Lola Wright: [laughs]

Saul Williams: Music has always been the thing for me that allows me to maintain a level of peace and excitement. I love musicians. I love also though what music feeds in me. So I listened to a lot of music. I listened to a lot of people and I also try to contribute to that conversation by making music as well. When I say that I’m fed by music, part of it is the creative process. And the other part of it is the listening process. I’m also fed by literature, big time, um, by living and nonliving authors. Um, there’s so much beautiful literature. There’s so much beautiful music, so much beautiful art. Honestly, that’s how I’m fed. I’ve always had the same response to optimism. It’s not so much about that. I think that if you’re grounded, you know, the Dow talks about, you know, hope being as hollow is fear. So keep your feet firmly planted.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: You know. The reckoning of you know the truth and the inevitability of us stepping into that greater and greater harmony is inevitable. Like we know where war leads.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Saul Williams: Even if we have to be reminded, each generation divided by the powers that be what have you, we know where it leads and so our growth is inevitable. This harmony that we yearned for and fight for it is also inevitable. We’re just trying to lessen the bloodshed –

Lola Wright: That’s exactly right.

Saul Williams: – in the process.

Lola Wright: That’s right.

Saul Williams: So it’s not optimism.

Lola Wright: Yes, thank you. I appreciate that distinction.

Saul Williams: I’m just trying to steer, to help steer like yo, if we do it this way, maybe we can avoid the bullshit that’s going to hit by us denying it for another 400 years. Face you’re fucking history, face your past. That’s what this country has to do. Face it and how do you face it? In your educational system. Face it.

Lola Wright: Face it is like the perfect invitation for all areas of life.

Saul Williams: Boom.

Lola Wright: Saul Williams, I am deeply appreciative of who you are on the planet. I am deeply grateful for the impact that you’ve had on my life. You are a model for how to be free and self-expressed and I believe that is the greatest gift you can give to humanity. Seriously.

Saul Williams: Thank you.

Lola Wright: So I, I appreciate you.
Lola & Saul: [laughter]

Lola Wright: Thank you for being here. Chicago is better with you having come through.

Saul Williams: Thank you.

Lola Wright: I’m so grateful you were with us for our second episode with Saul Williams on, And this is Bodhi. Again, my name is Lola Wright. If you’re not already connected with me, please find me @lolapwright. Find Bodhi @bodhichicago. Find Saul Williams @saulwilliams. Get yourself connected. I think one of the things I appreciated most about this last conversation was his real critique of our educational system as it relates to understanding the history, the formation of that which we now call the United States. If you’re looking for resources that really provide an accurate and perhaps non-biased understanding of the history of this country, check out Howard Zinn’s, “A People’s History.” It’s a great book that will disrupt much of learning that you perhaps got in school and that is extremely important. He also talked about this idea of face it. In that particular context, it was face the history that formed this country and our unwillingness to do so continues to keep us in suffering.

Lola Wright: I think that’s absolutely true about the state of this country, but I think it’s also true about your individual life. If there is something that you are dealing with that you’re unwilling to face, expect it will continue to be a loop of suffering. So two invitations. Check out, “A People’s History” by Howard Zinn and invite yourself into a practice of looking at the things you’ve historically been unwilling to look at. Your practice of being with that and anything that comes up around that will actually set you free and I promise you it is not one and done. It is a life long practice. Our next episode is with our creative producer, Tyler Greene. As he interviews me and my journey, I trust that that will be juicy, rich, interesting and I’d love for you to hang out with us there.

Lola Wright: All of our programming at Bodhi Center is made possible because of your generosity. Activate your experience of generosity by texting the word, GIVE (773) 770-8577. You can also visit bodhicenter.org/giving. And This is Bodhi is a production of Bodhi Center. Our funding comes from our incredibly generous contributors. I’m your host Lola Wright. This podcast is produced by Katie Klocksin with editorial guidance from creative producer Tyler Greene. This episode is engineered by Colin Ashmeed Bobbitt at WBEZ Chicago Public Media Studios. Our theme music is by Trey Royal independent music producer.


Bodhi is a conscious community in Chicago, IL. We offer in person and online experiences for people who are ready to transform themselves and their world. Bodhi uses media, education, entertainment, and like-minded community to support transformation.

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