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Thoughts on Greg Tate, a Black boy Genius

Thoughts on Greg Tate, a Black boy Genius

By Michael Simanga

Greg Tate was a child of the Black Arts Movement. It is important to remember the foundation of his great contributions. He grew up in the heat of Black cultural production, unparalleled in its influence on every discipline in the arts. His parents, Florence and Charles Tate, were movement people with their lives committed to Black liberation, self-determination, and justice. That knowledge and light is present in everything he wrote. It is not the exclusive place of his learning, but it is the source.

He was a scholar of Black culture and philosophy, speaker of the music, an imaginer, seer of the future, but always present in the present. He slid through time and place, hearing, tasting, seeing the notes, whether written, played, sung, composed, or improvised. Nothing moved outside his curiosity. Since birth, Greg Tate bathed in our beautiful darkness, stretching across time and place of the people who made music out of every experience and danced to it. In his life and writings, the sound and movement always held hands in our world.

Photo cred: New York Amsterdam News

He curated words, performances, images, and exhibitions, reminding us art is food, worship, medicine, and weapon.

Greg Tate nourished his mind and creative hunger because his need to do what he was called to do required endless study, training, sitting at the feet of elders and masters, learning the culture, and standing on solid ground when exploring and learning from the cultures of the world. With his great intellect and creativity, Greg Tate could have done anything he wanted. He chose us. He chose his parents and community. He chose Black artists as his family, Black people as his country, and the world as his birthright. He lived beyond the tangibles, traveling between worlds, seeing things we couldn’t get to yet. He unselfishly gifted his gifts to us.

Words flew out of his head, capturing the secrets of the culture and he wrote them down with precise patterns of improvised messages like maps to freedom in a sister’s cornrows. We met him as flesh but understand him as a spirit of all of it.

He was writer, musician, photographer, painter, and DJ. 

The movement of Black bodies on stage, at house parties, or on the street.

The rapper’s cadence, the poet’s potion, eyes of the filmmakers.

The call and the response.

And we know this because it’s in all those words he wrote for us.

Greg Tate attends “I Am Richard Pryor” Premiere during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Stateside Theater on March 12, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Sean Mathis/Getty Images for SXSW)

Long Live the Spirit of Greg Tate!


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