The Power of The Process: Selecta SunRa
Your story is news. So, ‘The Power of The Process’ is a different approach to ‘the interview.’ Here we celebrate brown brilliance by giving a prompt to curate a thought provoking first-person narrative from our interviewee.
Tell us about the experience of being a brown Philadelphia born Poet, B-Boy, and DJ now living in Colorado and the process of bringing Brown + Healthy to Denver through your musical narratives.
The Power of the Process: Come Down Selecta
I must have written and rewritten this story at least a hundred times. I swing on this pendulum between the sentiments of, “who really is gonna care to read my story,” and “this is really important, especially to the men of my generation,” this journey to mental, spiritual, and emotional health. My art has always been my coping mechanism. You see, my brother and I were born to a warrior, lioness, queen of a mother. Our fathers were men, not strong enough to understand…Calypso can’t be controlled. Both being damaged themselves, just allowed the cascade to sweep my brother and I in, with no real chance to escape the tsunami of anger, resentment, misinformation, distrust, mistrust, fear of abandonment and self hatred. You pair that with Reaganomics and the Crack Era of the late 80’s and early 90’s, there was minimal chance of escape, success, living…much less, being creative. But, just like the organisms that live at the volcanic depths of the ocean floor, in total darkness and extreme pressure and heat, I thrive. I thank my ancestors and the creative energy of Source for Hip Hop.
The Pillars of Hip Hop were the antithesis to the contradictory, bible thumpers I grew up with. My baby boomer grand parents weren’t the “break the mold” or “blaze your own trail” generation. They bore the cross of the Civil Rights Movement. When I came along, my grand mother just wanted peace for us. My grandfather wanted us to have health insurance and a pension. My father wanted me to sing the notes of his unfulfilled dreams. But I had the rhythms in my feet that no one, not even him, could explain. With him and my mother hating each other, as well as being prolific drug addicts, I had to find a place to escape to.
80’s Philadelphia was wrought with black self hatred and misdirected black rage. Between the Junior Black Mafia, the transition of mayor Frank Rizzo to W. Wilson Goode, the war on drugs, young black men, didn’t stand a chance. Luckily, I was imbued with my mother’s stubborn. B-boying kept me free. Even in the confines of the “children are to be seen and not heard” culture of my family. It allowed me to retreat to worlds within myself, fueled by rhythms that expressed my anger, my confusion, my pain and hurt. It allowed me to be as aggressive or as tender, as I felt, in just a measure. It allowed me self expression, in a way that didn’t infringe upon my families fragile sensibilities of how black children should conduct themselves.
Even though my mother did have her flaws, she insured that my brother and I were educated. In 1985, we moved to the Roxborough part of Philly and I began attending Shawmont Middle. 7th grade proved to be the catalyst for the next birth of my artist self. I began writing intensely, there. The diversity of the student body gave me the opportunity to loosen up…a little. In that yearbook, there was not a single picture of me smiling. My English teachers for 7th, 8th and 9th grades, were phenomenal. 8th grade especially. I made the difficult decision on my 13th birthday to leave my mother’s home and live with my grandparents. I wrote a lot then. I wrote about what it took to leave her and my brother. I wrote about worrying about her dying. I wrote about my intense concern for my brother’s life and how I begged my grandparents to go and get him. I just hurt a lot from 13 to 16. Then at 16, my grandmother passed and I was forever changed.
She was the one who supported my art, my spiritual searching. She was the one who encouraged higher learning after high school. When she died, I was left to the men in my family who hated me because they all hated my mother. Me being a representation of her because my will to be an individual could not be diminished, they tried to beat the self esteem out of me with intense mental abuses. If it hadn’t been for the dervish whirl of the Hip Hop and House, which unlocked more of the need to write, I would have been more of a mess. But B-boying made me more fearless and intent on being…well. I often would suffer in silence, dreaming up a routine or going over a past battle, while either my father was telling me I was wasting my talent as a singer, or my grandfather was telling me that I wasn’t going to college after I graduated. The music, the movement, and the scribe were the things that kept me going. Being able to release the darkness with movements born from light and love saved me. I thank my ancestors and the light energy of Source for guiding me to these things to help me cope. But alas, Hip Hop has always been a living, breathing entity and dancers of my type eventually were phased out. As well as, I wore out the cartilage in my knees by 24, so that was pretty much a wrap for doing it professionally. But I will still burn up your dance floor for a strong 30 minutes. As long as Harvey Dent is the dj.
I often joke that I walk the world like Kane from “Kung Fu” and every good super hero needs theme music, right?! So, over the years and being a student and child of Hip Hop, I had to study all the Pillars. I always had music in tow. Plus, the 80’s was one of the most revolutionary times in music. It truly pushed thoughts and feelings about the world-at-large, forward. Between artists like Prince, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Run DMC, Rakim, Salt N Pepa, Tears For Fears, The Ramones, Earth, Wind and Fire, James Brown, Public Enemy, Miles Davis and a host of other artists I can’t even name, the sounds being pumped into my frontal lobe were of liberation of the self and of the world. House music is all about bringing about peace through music and dance. As well as, I had always had carte blanche of the stereo in whatever house I was in, as a kid. I always loved the texture of the album covers from the 70’s and 80’s. They were always so intricate and I know, at least Bootsy Collins’ albums came with cut out Bootsy star glasses.
Moving to Baltimore, which is Philly’s “twin sin city”, as I like to call it. It is hugely artsy and rich in culture, as well. So much of the history is similar, down to my favorite writer, Edgar Allen Poe, having a home in both cities. I was a writer when I moved to Baltimore. I became a poet while I living there. Baltimore taught me how to deliver what I wrote, to an audience and pull them into my world. Let them feel my pain or my happiness. My biggest issue, though, was I wished to just be a part of the community. Performance was never my motivation. Even with the dance. It was more about being a part of a community that wanted to heal from the inside out. Somewhere along the way, though, I lost the passion to be a performing poet. I still love to write because I can tell stories. But I would rather be a spectator. So, when I stepped back, I began to listen again. I have always been able to reference a song or album to parallel my mood or even manipulate it to something better. The conversations I have had with adults, trying to convince them there is still good music that exists, I care not to count. There have been way too many. So, in 2008, my best friend gave me Virtual DJ. I began to play with it, but not seriously. But one night, I had it with me when I went my sister’s event, BE FREE Fridays held at the Teavolve, tea house in Baltimore. It started as me just coming up with a playlist and letting it play. Then eventually, I got into trying to actually blend. Again, I just wanted to be a part of the community and offer my energy. Somewhere along the way a narrative emerged. I began to tell stories and have conversations inside of the mixes I was putting together. It has allowed me to created works that have been paired with books, art shows, poetry events and even a birth. This journey, that started with the music, has taken me full circle through all the pillars of Hip Hop. My graffiti career was short lived, thanks to my mother’s love of threats. I have a djing mentor who gives me pointers on the finer points of the craft. But he never questions my music selection, which is the most important part. This art I have participated in and continue to participate in, has afforded me growth, community involvement, and mental and emotional health and stability. It has never been about the money for me. I have been chasing internal peace most of my life. My being appointed as the Curator of music for Brown and Healthy, just extends that quest for me to be able to include others in my interpretation of what peace and light sounds like. It has been a wonderful endeavor and I have so much more in store. I want my people happy and healthy. A lot of that looks like what you allow to vibrate through your spirit. Well, you will only get light from me. My dj moniker is “Selecta Sunra”, which for me means I walk a bright path. I like the sounds of that.
–Kenneth ‘Selecta Sunra’ Anthony
Curator of Music, Brown and Healthy
(photography by: Michelle Antoinette Photography)