Monday, October 26, 2009

...when it rains it pours...

SO... this has been one of the craziest weeks ever... when it rains it pours!

First off, Rest In Peace to the homie TalkSick. A face you knew if you went to any hip hop show in Seattle in the last 5 years, a town historian, and he also ran this blog - The War of the Words. Words can't even express it... you will be missed, homie.

The show at Chop Suey last Thursday was a smashing success. I never felt so loved and so vulnerable at a hip hop show before... the new songs can be a little hard to do, i found out! I suppose that's just what happens when you push yourself to write something your scared of talking about every day for a month. Premiered 10 new songs off of Colored People's Time Machine that night while the homie Jonathan Matas started doing the coverwork live on stage. The homie-for-life Toni Hill came up from Portland to open up the show and to join me for a few tracks, Khingz killed it with new material off his Cold Hearted In Cloud City EP (look for that online soon) and we ended with a surprise: Abyssinian Creole as Sexual Chocolate! Much love to everyone who came throo, and helped make the show such a success: Amos Miller, EarDrumz, WD4D, Massiah, Rahwa, Lulu, Canary Sing, Dume41, Kitty Wu, Daniel Lint, Scott, Andria, and every single person in the audience that night! It was almost too much to handle. The next night, Rogue Pinay, Khingz and myself smashed up to Bellingham for a small show at Western. The new songs feel so good to do.

The weekend hit and i found myself caught between interviews and drowning in a million little details to wrap up before my flight to Europe on Tuesday... so of course i got sick and bed-ridden. Ugh. Determined to knock the flu out in one day i ate cloves of garlic, 5000mg of Vitamin C throughout the day, drank lots of fluid, had lots of rest.

On Monday i needed to run a couple errands so i left the house for a couple hours with my sister WongWeezy and in the 2 hours or so we were gone, the house i was moving out of caught fire and almost burnt down! It was a grease fire that started while one of the homies was cooking, the fire travelled up to the vent above the stove which then burst into flames, and it could only be put out with a fire extinguisher (which we conveniently stored right above where the flames were). My friend was able to keep the fire contained to the one part of the kitchen (and really risked her life to do that) before the fire truck came and put it all the way out. By the time we got home all the walls in the kitchen were another color from the smoke. My friend who was home alone, moving in the next day, and who basically saved our entire house from burning down was cleaning with my other roomie and friends, while coughing up smoke.... and i just had to pack. Horrible feeling.

Tuesday rolled around and it was time to go too soon... the flight to London was 11 and a half hours with a really quick change of flights in Reykjavik, Iceland. I had already heard my share of horror stories regarding UK Customs at the London-Heathrow Airport, and i've had a couple pretty crazy experiences crossing into Canada over the years for shows, so, i felt like i was prepared for it all. I had a family member meeting me at the airport, address and phone number of who i was staying with while in London, I wasn't carrying any merchandise, and i had a receipt from a $1000 deposit into my bank from earlier in the morning. "It should be all good" i thought.

Got to the customs check around Noon on Wednesday. The series of questions seemed to be pretty routine, except this guy didn't seem to believe that i was just in London to visit family, even though there was family in the hallway. He got to the question of who purchased my plane ticket, and indeed, the University of Kent did purchase that plane ticket, as well as my flight that was scheduled to leave London and go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on December 1st. So it was my fault for not being completely honest about the fact that i was performing in the UK. I got detained, fingerprinted, arrested, for the first time in my life. I was in the holding room for 8 hours before being told that i'm getting sent back to the United States. But what's really frustrating? Is that since i was invited to participate in an academic conference, i didn't even need a work visa for the performance i was scheduled to do, and the University of Kent actually got UK Customs all the paperwork that was needed in the time i was being held. Apparently, i was kicked out because they didn't believe i had enough funds to support myself while in the UK, yet no one working there could tell me exactly how much money would be sufficient. So i didn't know why i was being held for so long, and the reason they gave for kicking me out is sketchy. The 2nd time i was interviewed the guy had a huge file on me, i couldn't see everything in it, but i noticed printed versions of my wikipedia page and other materials off the internet were in there.

What else i can tell you about my experience at London-Heathrow is that it was only people of color in the holding room, that they separate us from all of our belongings, phone numbers etc. And there is a pay phone in the room. The seats are uncomfortable... no windows, just flickering fluorescent lights... and it feels like jail for real. Everyone else i met throughout the day seemed to be really cool people with no ill intention whatsoever, just unprepared to get treated like a criminal when they come halfway around the world to see their loved ones. The first person i met was a younger Eritrean brotha from Toronto, who came to surprise his girlfriend who is attending school out there. The most surreal moment of the day for me was when this brotha realized who i was and he knew my music, and he said it was an honor to meet me... all i could say was, "likewise," and "i wish it was under better circumstances". Him and his girl coincidentally have the same last name... they are not married... this happens a lot in our countries, it's different because our last names are passed down from our fathers first names. Well the UK couldn't believe this (they looked at me like i was crazy when i didn't know my moms cousins last name too) and ended up sending that boy home. I wanted to cry they were so cold to him. (Update: my first cell mate found me on Facebook! So after he left Heathrow, they only got him a ticket to DC, and he lives in Toronto... so my brotha was stranded in DC for a minute! Then when he finally gets to Toronto they lost his bags! After he had packed for a 2 month journey... this all makes my blood boil)

My next cell mate was an older Black woman from Chicago, who was coming to visit her niece who actually serves in the military in the UK. More then anything, it seemed like she was being held for not understanding the questions, they actually gave her a 2 day pass to see her niece before deporting her too.

Hours later when they were finally ready to pass judgement on me it was so sudden... dude just burst in the room, barked that he's sending me home and that there will be no further discussion. Before i could even have time to ask anything he was telling me how i'd be on the next plane to Iceland, and that there were no more flights to Seattle from Iceland for 3 days. At the time i didn't know if he meant i would be in an Iceland jail or just sitting at the Airport so i said "Send me on the first flight to anywhere in the States then..." and i started listing cities: "Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles..." I ended up not having a choice in the matter, but they did put me on the next flight to New York City and i only had to spend one night in Keflavik, Iceland... which wasn't so bad because they didn't lock me up there, and i found a hotel right next to the airport.

That hotel in Iceland was the first time i got to access the internet... if your following me on Twitter or Facebook you know whatsup. Before I had even arrived in New York City on Thursday night the homie Jonathan Cunningham already had an article written that was circulating all around the internet. To welcome me back to the United States, I had my bags literally taken apart and every single t-shirt examined while the rest of my flight passed me by. Only person of color on the flight, only one searched. What's hilarious is that i know i was also the only person on the flight that hadn't really left airport security in 3 days. Way to keep us all safe, amerika...

In New York, i was fortunate enough to crash at the good homie Budo's house the first night, and have been staying at him and Grieves studio since then. Grieves is already out on tour and Budo's about to join him after an A.R.M. listening party in Minneapolis this week. I checked out a few CMJ events, got to see a bunch of family... DJ Ian Head, Geologic, Adebe D.B., Isabella Du Graf, Grynch, DJ Nphared, iLL-literacy, Devon & Jen from Sportn' Life, One Be Lo, Karim, and much more... i got to make some new music... but have really just had some hard choices and am left feeling like "what am i supposed to do now?"

Imagine waking up in a city you didn't plan on going to, 3000 miles from home and 3000 miles from where you planned to go... that's where i am now. I moved out of my apartment in Seattle... everything is in storage, i planned on being gone til January, there's no reason to go back now. I missed the one show in Europe that was paying enough for me to get to the rest of the shows i had booked there... If i were to buy another plane ticket to somewhere else in Europe to catch the tour, it would all just be a huge financial loss. And i can't use my ticket from London to Ethiopia anymore. The University had to get a refund on that ticket since they lost money by not doing the show with me.

So obviously i'm still trying to get to Ethiopia in December with The Arba Minch Collective but now i have to fundraise all over again! I'm sub-leasing this apartment in Brooklyn until we go to Ethiopia, and i will be based here in New York... making as much music as humanly possible.

A lot of people have been reaching out this past week to lend support, i really truly appreciate every single message... i've just been really stressed out and wasn't able to respond to everyone yet. I want you to know how heartening it is to hear everyones support, and because of this experience, now more then ever i feel like this music and this work i do is something so much bigger then me... so thank you for even taking the time to read this. My faith isn't shaken and i know there's a blessing somewhere in all of this.

To answer everyones question: what i really need now is work. Some beats to write and record to... some paying gigs... any fund-raising ideas? anyone down to sponsor a trip to Ethiopia? holla!

i'll keep you guys posted.

til we free...
-- gt


Madeleine said...

its so fucked up what they did to you! so much racism in the world but so much to change and write songs about. SENDING YOU LOTS OF LOVE GABE!!! Stay strong. You will be in the MOTHERLAND SOON.


AddisTunes said...

Stay strong brother!

Ctagawa said...


gabriel teodros said...

Interesting article published earlier this year... heads up to any artists traveling to the UK!

"Immigration rules threaten to destroy Britain's arts reputation"

richjensen said...

Good to see this detailed report. SO glad Arba Minch is still your sights and you are more or less set-up in NYC. Sounds like a good landing. NYC is always an inspiration to me. Rock on,


FiRE said...

Woww! I am SO sorry. It's funny how some European folks think they're so much better than Americans RE issues of race. The way they treated you was totally inhumane. I'm sending you lots of love and support!

Joseline from FiRE

Afro Feminist Samurai said...

You might want to get in contact with my friend Michael. His website is . He does a lot of work on fundraising for non-profits and might have some good ideas. Good luck!