Tai Allen Interview: “third world problems”

 
Michael: I’m a first-worlder; I was born with privilege. I didn’t properly experience the third world and understand that divide–the places where it is an actual, real, economic and cultural divide and the others where it is entirely illusionary and contrived–and the reasons for all that–until I was in my thirties. “third world problems” pinpoints almost uncannily a number of the ways that experience changed and continues to change my worldview. The first time I read it, I laughed. Then I read it again and was embarrassed about that laughter, motivated to think about why I was laughing.
Would you mind sharing a little about your own experience of the first-world/third world divide?
 
Tai: Interesting question. I think I straddled the line for most of my life. I was born at the right time, my parents were not rich but we were on the other side of middle-class. Could even be considered as lil, slightly, upper middle? Therefore, I had the best education options. I had the weekend sports. I had the best clothes. My house had all the adornments of middle-class life: video games, telescope, travels on holidays, basketball hoop, computers, four car garage et al.
I never had to live in a third-world environment, here or abroad. But I am second-generation Caribbean. I know of family subsisting and working hard to just remain poor rather than destitute. I am familiar with the treaties and pacts that bleed my home area but fill the coffers of multi-nationals.
In the States, we have corners of Third-World living. The projects are underserved, under-financed and over-policed.  And education is a wanted commodity but treated as a fleeting privilege. Under develop the land and the constructs that support the people and if you squint… the Black and Brown neighborhoods look very un-American.
 
Michael: Was there something particular that inspired this poem?
 
Tai: NO. I was just musing on how easy it is to forget most of the world is suffering while we are in surplus.
 
Michael: You’ve worked in a lot of media and performed for a lot of people. Do you think there are ways for art, poetry, music, to bridge the gap between first and third world for people who haven’t experienced both?
 
Tai: The PC answer is yes. My gut says “I wish.” But more often I am speaking to the converted without the access to foster change. Or, I am performing for the people requiring the change. Those how can make change and need to work are not interested. But I am a fool who still champions the necessary and foolishly tries to change the mind of those in control.
 
My biggest goal is to get those who feel tread upon to journey with self-love and to build mechanisms for their growth. It is difficult within the current structure but Western society has machinations that allow for growth. We must remember the resources are limited unless you control them. The resources are limited but the supply is for the access-having to exhaust.
 
Michael: In your experience, does art change minds?
 
Tai: YES and NO!! I think my job is to just keep trying to make it always yes. But I know better. But I still paladin away…
 
Michael: Thank you very much!
 
Tai: NOPE, thank you!!
 
No Jewels – amazon. apple or taiallen.com
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Author: Tai Allen

Tai Allen is a poet, performer, vocalist, musician, producer and designer. He has toured domestically and internationally. He has been published in magazines such as Bomb and African Voices. Tai’s work has been featured on sites such as Okayplayer, CentricTV, Soultracks, and TimeOut. He has performed at the Apollo Theater’s Music Café, National Black Writers Festival, Ft Greene Festival, American Jazz Museum, Art of Cool Festival, The Nuyorican Poets Café and on the Today Show. He has also coordinated and curated concerts, conferences and festivals. A unique and refreshing artist, Tai has established a reputation as a visionary. Tai Allen loves basketball. Sterling Brown. Oscar Brown. Roy Ayers. King Tubby. Kevin McHale. Aretha Franklin. Illusions by Richard Bach. Children. Yankees. Nets. Giants. Steph Curry. Gelato. Jerk Chicken. Oscar Wilde. Brad Pitt. Octavia Butler. Rakim. Jigga. Roti. Poetry. Parenting. Blogs technology/sports/politics. Sitting in the sun, near water. (Photo courtesy of spaceship george.)

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