CHICAGO, IL — This week we’re in Chicago, where I’ll participate in a symposium for the art exhibit, “Traveling the Spaceways”, at the Hyde Park Art Center. The exhibit and symposium explores the topic of Sun Ra, and “will investigate the impact of Sun Ra and Afrofuturism on American history and visual culture.”
I was invited in part, due to a family connection. My father, Alton Abraham (1933-1999), was Sun Ra’s producer, manager, founder of El Saturn Records and Ihnfinity, Inc. In addition, in 2005 I published a collection of his cosmic poetry, Sun Ra: Collected Works Vol. 1 – Immeasurable Equation (ISBN 0-9700209-7-X Phaelos Books).
The book’s publication honored my father’s work with Sun Ra, and the spirit that consistently characterized their effors during their earthly lifetimes. It was a spirit of inspiration, determination, and clarity with respect to embracing the highest intent for the greatest number.
They wanted to help humankind awaken to the larger universe that we are an integral part of. To them, outer space and spirituality were a synonomous unity. Through a wide body of work, they presented a view where angels and demons played together over (or under) interstellar low ways, gently moved hither and yon by “my brother the wind”.
They traveled the spaceways creating cosmic tones for mental therapy on other planes of there. In one giant holiday for a soul dance, they played jazz in silhouette, tempting fate in a pleasant mood. Whether it made sense to others was unimportant. It all made sense to them. Now, over 50 years after it all started in Chicago, it’s starting to make sense to us.
Even today, these are extraordinary positions to take for most people. Most people, whether they are performers, polititians, or presidents, look for a comfortable place within the familiar to stake their position. No one embraced the unknown and seemingly out of reach, as publically and perhaps, loudly, as Sun Ra. Some may have thought he was even out of touch, but we are now beginning to feel the touch of his tones, as the 21st Century begins catching its stride.
While Sun Ra was the public personna for the group’s cosmic philosophy, my dad chose to be behind the scenes, handling everything from scheduling concerts and recording sessions and paying the band, to album production, design and packaging.
With the assistance of life-long friend James Bryant and Madelyn Friedman, his companion and life-partner for over 40 years, dad had the components needed to transform the group’s performances into recorded works that have had a profound effect on many, to the extent that Sun Ra’s Saturn discs remain highly sought after prizes among music collectors today.
Later today, Mayor Richard M. Daley will be present at a dedication of the Art Center. Several local publications have listed the exhibit as one of the top things places to see in Chicago; where the King Tut exhibit graphically dominates facade of the Museum of Natural History. But perhaps it just means that King Tut is so yesterday, and Sun Ra is still, tomorrow.